The Women’s Marches that took place last weekend included a contingent from Bryan County among the marchers at 600+ events in the United States and in 30 foreign countries. Marches took place in all 50 states and on every continent. Total participation at all the events has been variously estimated from three million to five million.
The crowd at the main event in Washington DC numbered about half a million, far larger than the 200,000 that had been expected. Other huge crowds were seen in Los Angeles (about 750,000), Chicago (about 150,000) and London, England (100,000).
Among the throng in DC were four Durant women: Margaret Taylor, Marion Hill, Katrina Daniels and Daniels’ mother, Charlotte Rawls. Another Durant woman, Leslie Parker, attended the Oklahoma City march. Hill said she has heard reports of 15 or more people from Bryan County who attended one of the events but has not spoken directly to most.
Morgan Reagan, formerly of Durant and a former employee of the Durant Daily Democrat, journeyed from her current home in New York City to the DC march. She and Daniels have since shared experiences of that event.
The idea for a demonstration on behalf of human rights blossomed after a woman from Hawaii posted her response to the November 8 election result on Facebook: “We should march.” Her suggestion went viral, and people began organizing via Facebook for a Women’s March on Washington DC and “sister marches” in many other locales around the globe.
“Women’s rights are human rights” was a rallying cry. Speakers at events also voiced concerns over whether the incoming administration would sufficiently protect the rights of marginalized groups such as immigrants, the disabled, religious and ethnic minorities, and the LGBTQ community.
The national organizers stated on their website that the demonstrations were not intended as an “anti-Trump protest,” but rather a way to emphasize the need for vigilance about threats to human rights that may arise.
Though termed a “Women’s March” by organizers, the event drew men as well, some of whom sported signs with such slogans as “This bad hombre supports nasty women.” Families composed of multiple generations marched, including infants in strollers, teens, and gray-hairs, some with walkers or in wheelchairs.
Matriarch, an organization of Native American women founded by two Choctaw women, Kendra Wilson Clements and Sarah Adams-Cornell, was represented at both the DC and Oklahoma City marches. Clements was a keynote speaker at the Oklahoma City march, where attendance was variously estimated as 7,000 and 12,000. Both the women have ties to Durant and regularly work with tribal leadership here.
Taylor, Daniels, Rawls, and Hill took various modes of transportation to DC and had somewhat different experiences. They had hoped to meet up at some point during the march, but the huge crowd made movement difficult and locating specific individuals among the throng impossible.
Taylor drove there, meeting along the way two of her daughters, Leah and Jocelyn Taylor, who live in Nashville Tenn., and with friends who live in New York City and Kansas. One of the daughters had booked a hotel room for the Taylors near the site of the march, and they walked to the site from there.
Daniels and Rawls flew to DC and relied on the Metro subway system there to get to and from the site. They stayed with friends in the DC area.
Hill was one of 50 women riding a chartered bus from Oklahoma, stopping only briefly to refuel and to change drivers, existing on snacks and fast food, and spending almost 45 hours in total on the bus. The bus riders ranged in age from 19 to 79 and, in addition to Oklahomans from Guymon, Tahlequah, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and Durant, included one woman from Flower Mound, Texas.
Because there was a waiting list to get onto Oklahoma’s bus, a few other Oklahomans traveled on one of two buses that originated in New Mexico.
The five Durant women are united in their feelings about the marches and the spirit of camaraderie that prevailed that day.
“It was a thrill to be a part of something so historic,” Taylor said, “and I was amazed that so many people could remain peaceful and respectful toward each other.”
No arrests were reported during the day, either at the main march in DC or at any of the sister events. One DC policeman commented following the main march that he had worked security around the nation’s Capitol during big protest actions before and had “never seen anything like this one” in terms of marchers’ orderliness and courtesy.
“Going to the DC march was one of the best experiences of my life,” Hill said. “Not only did I get to know terrific women on the bus, but it was great to feel part of a major effort for human rights.”
Daniels, who donned a sash reading “Never Going Back” and proudly carried an American flag in the march, said, “This was massive, and massively successful, but it’s just the beginning. My reason for marching was to let the world know where we stand and that we will defend that stance.”
Taylor said she marched because “I believe in justice and equality, and as a former educator and lawyer, I marched for all our people under law.”
Parker’s reason for marching was: “I felt a specific responsibility to stand up for people who are already in a vulnerable group. I don’t want to allow further erosion of rights.”
Hill expressed her reason for marching thus: “I had thought rights for women and marginalized groups such as immigrants and religious minorities were largely won years ago, but I now see that they may be at risk.”
Parker noted how inclusive and diverse the marches were. “The best thing I heard from one of the diverse speakers in Oklahoma City was, ‘In feminism, diversity is everyone having a seat at the table; inclusiveness is everyone having the same amount of time to speak. We must listen to one other.” Reagan felt uplifted by the passion, excitement, and joy she saw in marchers’ faces. After the event, she said, “My face hurt from all the smiling, and my voice was hoarse from all the yelling. But I have never felt so alive and proud to be a woman.”
Speakers at the DC event included women’s-rights activist Gloria Steinem, filmmaker Michael Moore, Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood, LaDonna Harris of Americans for Indian Opportunity, Judith LeBlanc of Native Organizers Alliance, Roslyn Brock of NAACP, and actresses Ashley Judd, America Ferrara, and Scarlett Johansson. Speakers mentioned concerns about the rhetoric towards marginalized groups that they had heard from the newly inaugurated President during his campaign.
One speaker suggested that if a registry of Muslim citizens should be set up as the candidate had suggested, “We should all register, non-Muslims too, and then the registry will be ineffective.”
Daniels noted that such an action would illustrate the fact that “we, the people, are not powerless to protect our fellow citizens.”
Hill agreed. “If we all stand together, no group can be unfairly targeted without blowback from the rest of us,” she said.
Many marchers carried signs with slogans like “Dissent is patriotic,” “Make America think again”,” “Make America kind again,” “The people united will never be defeated,” “Weak men fear strong women,” and “You have awoken the Sleeping Beauties.”
Little girls carried signs with messages such as “Civil rights are our birthright,” “Fight for our future,” and “Why tell me the sky’s the limit, when there are footprints on the moon?”
Chants were heard from the assembled crowd often during the day, including “This is what democracy looks like,” as well as more frustrated refrains such as “We need a leader, not a nasty tweeter.”
Many marchers wore bright pink caps in a mocking reference to the recording that surfaced during the campaign, in which candidate Trump spoke of having assaulted women.
A prevailing theme in speakers’ presentations, as in conversation among marchers, was a determination to stay engaged in the political process following the marches. The five Durant women all vowed to continue as activists, regularly letting public officials know their views on issues and holding those officials accountable. Daniels summed up the sentiment of all:
“We must not fall into complacency in the face of future discriminatory and sexist legislation. We cannot march and then call it done.”
“Today is not the end of anything,” one of the DC speakers said. “It’s just the beginning of a movement to effect real, needed changes in our politics and our society.”
Submitted by Marion Hill.