International Women’s Day is the perfect time to reflect on the women’s movement, a tsunami of political activism that roared ashore in January 2017, when millions upon millions marched across the nation’s cities. That year, the impetus of the march spawned more than 6000 protests, and this January, between 1.6 and 2.5 million marched again.
Discussion of women’s issues has intensified with “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” added to the resistence to Trump Administration policies or viewpoints. Even in the Inland Empire, in the city of Riverside, this year’s women’s march illuminated the charge into activism.
More than 6,000 people crowded before the historic Riverside courthouse, waving signs, chanting slogans, carrying banners for the second Women’s March IE , January 20. It was a rallying cry raised by the faithful, to encourage resisters and sisters and to harness the energy for the upcoming mid-term elections.
It was an increase from last year’s count of 4,000, as men, women and children, all genders, ethnicities, ages marched and chanted in rhythmic but orderly unity.
There were silly signs, serious signs, labor union banners, bull horns and traffic monitors. The march stayed on the sidewalk as it rounded the police department, but chants of “Blue Wave! Blue Wave!” referred to the blue color of politics, not to law enforccment. It was clarified with “GOP, GOP, where is your humanity!”
On the previous Tuesday evening, silver haired Christine Pelzgar put the finishing touches on a sign, “Pissed off Grandma.”
Charlene and Greg McKinley-Powell, of the IE Resistence, were hosting a sign making party for 40 people spread out in two rooms of the Universalist Unitarian Church. Anita Acorn said, “I used Pissed off Grandma last year.” This time, she and her sister-in-law Jan Lacerter were pushing voting in the next election. Pat Riley and his wife planned again to march in the Riverside event with their message, “Resist!”
On the day of the march, I looked for them as 6000 moved to the beat of native drums and the songs of the Riverside Resistence Revival Chorus.
“No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA!” competed with “We need a leader, not a creepy Tweeter!”
But as quickly as we started, we were back at the Main Street mall, returning for the final rally on the courthouse steps. I managed to catch a glimpse of Greg’s dog Calvin as he raced from the courthouse to the Judicial Plaza where numerous tables offered voter registration and information about local candidates for the House and Senate.
At the end of the event, excitement and energy still coursed through the crowd as people scattered to find lunch. We had used Lyft to get into the city and to avoid parking. Our driver said, “Oh yeah, the Womens March. My five sisters are here.” Five sisters? “I come from a family of 14…”
We were tired and hungry, but the memory of the chant still rings loud and clear:
“Tell me what democracy looks like, THIS is what democracy looks like!”