The signs were harsh, yet clever. The voices sombre, but strong.
Amid a sea of pink “pussyhats,” local activists shared poems and personal stories as the mood wavered between worry, fear and empowerment.
Hundreds assembled in London, Ont.’s Victoria Park as part of the global Women’s March on Washington. The protest aimed to bring attention to women’s issues and served as a staunch rebuke of comments made by President Donald Trump during his campaign which many saw as degrading to women.
“People say give him a chance. Have you already forgotten what he’s said?” – Beth Hahn
Supporters marched in solidarity for not only women, but LGBTQ, Indigenous and racialized communities. Speakers emphasized the importance of an inclusive march and invited all genders to participate.
Beth Hahn took to a protest mic for the first time at the event. “I have never done anything like this before,” she said to the crowd of about 500 people. “But I have never been inspired like this before.”
Hahn called on attendees to ignore calls that citizens support new President Donald Trump regardless of prior statements. Speaking before the rally, she argued “people say give him a chance. Have you already forgotten what he’s said?”
Young children and teens – even babies – were prominent in the crowd. They carried signs pushing back against anti-gay, anti-immigrant rhetoric. Two girls chanted “we won’t give up, we won’t give in: protect women’s rights,” as they marched along Richmond St.
Emily Hoven, 23, and Robyn Obermeyer, 22, joined the protest in a show of support for people who are marginalized. “When the election happened, I felt so hopeless,” said Obermeyer who saw the election as not only affecting the United States, but as a global issue.
“It was white women that elected Donald Trump,” said Hoven. As a “white, able-bodied woman,” she joined the protest to support “all women,” including women of colour, transgender women, and Indigenous women.
Jana Cernavskis, 22, is from New York state and now studies in London. She reluctantly voted for Hillary Clinton in the November election fearing a vote for a third party candidate would solidify Trump’s win.
“It’s been a struggle for me figuring out how to be a part [of the conversation].” – Jana Cernavskis
“It’s terrible to know that the people I share citizenship with would put on hold other people’s rights for economic gain,” Cernavskis said, speaking about Trump’s campaign and the urban-rural divide that solidifed his presidency.
When asked why she held a sign about LGBT rights during the march, Kelli Jerome cited the removal of a section focused on that community from the White House website. “It completely erases what Obama did,” Jerome says. “You can’t be a president and be so monocular.”
Marching with her sister and neice, Jerome said the sign represents her and her wife’s belief in equal human rights. Still, she’s not afraid of what Trump might do.
“I’m not hopeless,” said Jerome. Of the new President, she was cautiously optimistic. “Putting someone that dim in power… they have opportunity to learn.”