Sun rays broke through the dark clouds in Sacramento early on January 21, making all the raincoats and umbrellas unnecessary. Even with the possibility of rain and cold weather, parking lots filled and thousands of women, men, and children of all ages began walking the wet downtown streets. Crisp cold air greeted them as they made their way to Southside Park by 9am to assemble for the Women’s March.
An endless sea of people bundled up in warm clothing gathered in every area of the park. All the open space occupied by smiling faces, pink pussycat hats, Planned Parenthood crowns, pictures of Trump, uteruses, and a plethora of homemade signs with a variety of messages in support of inclusion, women’s rights, and social justice. Several people held up their cell phones to video tape and photograph the overwhelming demonstration of love, freedom of speech, and civil action. In every direction, signs, signs, and more signs expressed the messages of the movement: “A woman’s place is in the resistance.” “Freedom of choice. Equality for all.” “I march for science, for her, the future, Planned Parenthood.” “Real men don’t participate in locker room talk.” “Proud to be a nasty woman.” A group of drummers marched down the middle of the crowd of people and signs to begin the 1.2 mile march to the capitol. Heard, not seen. Hidden in the sea of demonstrators.
The bottle neck from the park to the street left the crowd stuck and compacted for several minutes. People stood shoulder to shoulder, back to back, and took small forward steps while they shared stories of the White House website deleting the online LGBT and climate change resource pages. Chants began, “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now!” Slowly the crowd moved forward. Space opened up between everyone and the pace increased to a slow walk. Supporters along the sidewalks and in the buildings above waved, hollered, and clapped. The spontaneous roars of the marchers traveled from the back to the front. Cheers, smiles, pride, and determination to stand for justice.
With the final stretch of the walk ahead, people stopped for selfies and group shots with the capitol in the background. The immensity of the crowd along with the magnificent building brought another sense of awe to an already intense moment in history. Everyone wanted closer to the capitol. They wanted to see and hear everything. People squeezed in tight to get a peek, but only those who arrived first could see the stage. A woman sitting on her husband’s shoulders volunteered to take photos of the crowd in front and behind for those around her who couldn’t see. More cell phones popped up to record when Sacramento Mayor, Darrell Steinberg, spoke to begin the rally.
Steinberg praised all the people who showed up for the march and spoke words of encouragements and inspiration that made the crowd cheer. He said, “We lost one election, but we did not lose our fight…” Next, the only female on the Sacramento City Council, Angelique Ashby, spoke about not being afraid and being part of the solution. Then Dr. Richard Pan took the stage. He said, “We are smart and strong and can do amazing things.” Throughout everyone’s speech the crowd cheered and clapped, but one speaker invigorated the crowd above all the rest.
State Controller, Betty Yee, had the marchers take on oath while raising their right hands.
The entire crowd repeated after her, “I do solemnly swear to get up, stand up, step out, and speak out every day for human rights for all.”
The crowd roared and began chanting her name. Yee continued her speech with the highlight of the march and the entire day saying that the best sign she had seen was that being held by a grandma that said, “I can’t believe I’m still protesting the same fucking shit.”
The crowd of its size that had never been seen before at the capitol roared with laughter and support. She brought down the house.
Several more speakers and music performers filled the rest of the afternoon while some marchers headed back to their cars and homes. Local restaurants bustled with people wearing pink hats and carrying signs. The energy and the message of the march spread throughout Sacramento. An estimated 20,000 people of northern California had heard the call to be vigilant in opposing anyone who challenges the human rights of any person. They heard the call and they marched. They left knowing that it was only the beginning.
Darbie Andrews is a published author, high school teacher, single mother of two boys, and a Zumba instructor originally from Southern California.