There was extra urgency to the fourth annual Women’s March in downtown Vancouver that may have been missing from previous politically progressive, anti-Trump outings.
This is a presidential election year and the perfect time to get personally involved, speaker after speaker exhorted a hundreds-strong crowd of women — and men — that gathered Saturday in Esther Short Park despite damp, chilly conditions and hints of rain.
Previous Women’s Marches, a global annual tradition that started the day after President Donald Trump’s January 2017 inauguration, were all “leading up to this year, the year we start taking power back,” Vancouver event organizer Terri Niles said. “It’s a very decisive year. Today we march. In November we vote.”
“Hate kills. It causes violence,” said Michelle Bart, president of cosponsoring organization the National Women’s Coalition Against Violence & Exploitation. “If anybody has hate on the ballot, what do we do? Vote no.”
Homemade signs carried by participants conveyed messages like “I am a strong man because of stronger women,” “Senators, do your job” and “Girls just want to have fundamental rights.”
Women have been marching for social change for centuries, according to Donna Sinclair of Washougal, an adjunct history instructor at Washington State University Vancouver and current Democratic candidate for the 18th Legislative District of the Washington state House of Representatives. Women marched against slavery and discrimination and for voting, property and equality rights, Sinclair said.
“Some of us thought the marching was over, but it’s not,” Sinclair said. “This is not our first Women’s March and it won’t be our last.”
“We are faced with overwhelming challenges” that require direct, personal action, said Diana Perez, the president of the local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens. “Do not rely on social media. I ask you to be courageous” by working for change in person and by embracing allies of different races, different backgrounds, different orientations and abilities, Perez said.
“In my matriarchal society, it’s the women who are the backbone of the family, the community, the tribe,” said Becky Archibald, a local activist and Shoshone-Bannock tribal member. “Women have the knowledge. Women have the stories.”
Talk of danger
Navy veteran Joanna Johnson, a member of the Colville tribe, reviewed the grim statistics regarding violence against Native American women in Washington and throughout the nation. She spoke out in a trembling voice against “normalizing” that problem, and underlined growing awareness of indigenous women who simply disappear and are never seen again. Washington state is a leader in that tragedy, she aid.
“Being a Native American woman, I have a target on my back,” Johnson said. “If I disappear … something is wrong. Look for me.”
Last summer’s strangulation death of Nikki Kuhnhausen, a 17-year-old transgender girl allegedly murdered by a 25-year-old man, hung heavily over the rally.
Lisa Woods, Kuhnhausen’s mother, was onstage, and so was clinical social worker Devon Rose Davis, who said: “Clark County is not a safe place for women,” and the danger is that much more acute for trans women and girls.
“We are all in danger, but some of us are in a lot more danger than others,” Davis said.
Tony Lugo, 69, displayed his Air Force Veteran hat proudly.
“I was raised in a family with four sisters and I have two daughters,” he said. “All my life I’ve been surrounded by women, and they’ve made me what I am. And, I know a lot of women veterans. How can I not support their causes? Their causes are my causes.”
Niles sparked cheers as she likened political activism to childbirth. You have to push and keep pushing despite the pain, she said — but when it’s all over, you’ve got great cause for celebration and you leave the pain behind.
“Women are the producers of life,” Niles shouted. “Women can also be the producers of change.”