Local Activists Attend Women's March

Jan 23, 2017

By some estimates, nearly half a million people took part in the Women's March on Washington the day after the Inauguration. They were joined by thousands more in cities around the world.

One day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the largest protest against a new president took place in Washington, D.C., and in cities around the world. WMRA’s Jessie Knadler caught up with a few locals who helped spearhead efforts to get people from our area to the Women's March on Washington, and she also was in Washington, for this report on the massive protest in the nation’s capitol.

Bridget Kelley-Dearing is an environmental activist in Lexington.

KELLEY-DEARING: I’ve worked really hard in the last ten years to make advances for clean water, clean streams, mountain top removal, stopping that, stop fracking, pipelines. It seemed clear to me that the administration he was bringing in could undo that really rapidly.

She said she has tried for years to get locals to join in on her frequent political protests, to no avail. But with the incoming Trump administration, she sensed the feeling was different.

KELLEY-DEARING:  I knew I had to be there. I also knew that the women in Lexington would stand up for this. That they would get on a bus and go to Washington.

She was right. Lexington women would get on a bus for this. She rented a motor coach for nearly $4,000 that booked up within three days. Hers was one of four buses she knew of headed for Washington.

KELLEY-DEARING: It’s not really just anti-Trump, I really believe that's what the march is about.  I know a lot of women are going for that reason but I believe we have a lot of work to do to keep the human rights that we have gained from slipping away from us.

Over in Staunton, Marlena Hobson organized her own 55-seat bus that very quickly booked up. Hers was one of six buses she knew of leaving from Staunton.

MARLENA HOBSON:   The threat of losing the support of Planned Parenthood is one of the grave injustices I saw starting to happen right away. I grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and I saw the benefits of mass demonstration…the ideas of women’s rights, civil rights, and also the anti war movement were all benefited from mass demonstration. We need to participate in this democracy or we’re going to lose it.

[fade in Metro]

On the morning of the march, it was almost impossible to catch up with people from the Shenandoah Valley, there were so many marchers. Metro cars were full of pink pussy cat hats worn by men and women alike.

CHRIS: I am marching today to show Donald Trump that they're going to hear a lot of women roar.

CARLA NARANJO: I’m marching for my daughter. I have a three year old daughter and I want her to grow up in a country that respects women and that values diversity.

That’s Chris -- she didn't want to give her last name --  and Carla Naranjo.  Both live in Silver Spring, Maryland.

MARIA PUFAHL: These hats in the bag here are 15 fleece pussy-hats that my husband made for us to give out to marchers who didn't have one.

That’s Maria Pufahl, a fellow traveler from Rockbridge County. Within ten minutes, all her hats were gone.

[fade out subway, fade in march]

The event was billed as a Women’s March, but it drew men and people from different races and ethnicities united under a rainbow of causes.

PROTESTERS: Black trans lives matter! Black trans lives matter!

Signs said things like ‘Keep your little orange hands off my rights,’ and ‘Girls just want to have fun…damental rights.’

PUFAHL:  Somebody embroidered one of their signs which said, ‘I embroidered my sign because I felt like stabbing something a thousand times.’

Inside the National Mall, crowds estimated at some 400,000 were jammed shoulder to shoulder. It got so tight at one point that marchers could not move in any direction. A Jumbotron broadcast celebrity speeches and performances from the stage. But insufficient sound systems meant that marchers 500 feet away could not hear anything that was said. Cell phone transmission also wasn’t working. Texts couldn’t go in or out.

Unable to hear the rousing speeches, or get information online, marchers began to get restless.

MARCHERS:    Let’s march now! Let’s march now!

After an hour of no movement, people started climbing trees and on top of garbage cans to see out over the ocean of pink to find out which way the crowd was moving. Critical mass was finally reached and marchers suddenly flooded out onto Pennsylvania Avenue.

MARCHERS: Pay your taxes! Donald Trump has got to go! Pay your taxes! Donald Trump has got to go!

The march was on. Chants filled the air.  Here’s Nikki Spry.

NIKKI SPRY: I’m a high school teacher in New York City. I teach immigrant children and they are terrified.  They are so afraid.  And I'm here for them, because I can’t look them in the eyes every single day and tell them that I’m not doing anything to help them. That is why I’m here.

MARCHERS:    My body, my choice! Her body, her choice! My body, my choice! Her body, her choice.