Hundreds of Bay Area residents, including many from Berkeley, joined the teeming crowds of pink pussy hats and colorful signs in Washington, D.C., Saturday morning as part of a worldwide protest against the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
Early estimates indicate at least half a million people were in attendance at the Women’s March on Washington – a protest organized after the Nov. 9 election in reaction to the fear and anger felt by much of the country. D.C. Metro stated that more than 1 million rides were recorded on Saturday, the second-busiest day in its history.
Many Bay Area travelers connected through a Facebook group started by Oakland residents Angela Sevin and Konda Mason. After receiving an “overwhelming” number of women who responded, they decided to organize a group to make the cross-country trek together.
“We really thought that being a part of this march was an opportunity to connect with other people around the world,” on issues of race, class, and gender, Sevin said. “The work begins here.”
The Facebook group counts 170 members, though it is not known if all of the members attended the D.C. march.
The day kicked off with an informal breakfast for East Bay constituents at the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the staff of Rep. Barbara Lee.
Lee, who boycotted Trump’s inauguration, said that women and girls deserve the right to the “American Dream,” just like men – and she vowed to work against issues like defunding Planned Parenthood and Obamacare.
“We’re not going back,” Lee said. “We’re going to move forward.”
Lee also remarked that she was glad that so many young women were in attendance at the breakfast meeting. “Some of us remember the days when things were very, very, very bad for women – when women had zero rights.”
When asked by Berkeleyside if Lee was marching, she responded, “Oh, yeah!” to cheers from the crowd. Lee later took to the march holding a banner that said, “Black Women of Congress,” along with Yvette Clark (D-N.Y.), Shelia Jackson Lee (D-Texas), and Brenda Lawrence (D-Michigan).
Leslie Silket from Oakland marched wearing a pink hat knitted for her by her dental hygienist. “I’m here standing in for those back home who can’t march,” she said. Silket also cited the criticism that the Women’s March did not have the racial diversity of other protests and, as a black woman, Silket felt “it was much more important” for her to be at the D.C. march than at the ones in the Bay Area.
“There’s so few of us here, I just felt like we had to be represented,” she said.
Erin McMahon, a Berkeley resident, flew into D.C. for the march with her 10-year-old daughter, Avery Lyman, friend Susan Andres and her daughter, Stephanie Jersey, 11. McMahon said she made the decision to attend the D.C. march “immediately” after President Trump’s election.
“I’m here to stand up for all human rights. Everything that Trump’s cabinet devalues, I value,” she said.
She remarked that she was inspired by the number of Bay Area women she met while marching. “I think we were very well-represented,” she said. “And I think we’re going to have a lot to bring back to our community.”
Retired criminal defense lawyer and San Francisco resident Elizabeth Zitrin said she had the courage to stand up and march against President Trump because of renowned civil rights activist and congressman John Lewis.
Lewis remarked last week that Trump’s presidency was “illegitimate” because Russian hackers interfered with the election.
“This man’s presidency is illegitimate,” Zitrin said.
Zitrin traveled to D.C. with another Bay Area resident, Jeanne Woodford – and proudly wore the official march T-shirts and gear. Both women have a long history of protest and said they wouldn’t think of missing the opportunity to march at the nation’s capital.
“This is not girls being annoyed,” Zitrin said. “This is the majority of the nation who didn’t vote for [President Trump.]”
Dori Koll from San Francisco waited for hours along the side of the rally stage near Independence Avenue for the march to begin, holding a handmade sign that read “Gender, Racial, Climate, Economic Justice.” Tears filled her eyes as she spoke of becoming a new grandmother and making the decision to stand in solidarity in D.C. for her friends and family back home in the Bay Area.
“This is really what America is,” she said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, I knew it wasn’t going to be a luxury vacation, but I just felt like I needed to be here and stand with everyone.”
Despite fears for the country as a whole, Koll isn’t too concerned about the future of Bay Area politics under Trump’s administration. “All of our politicians have said they’re standing strong, and so I think we actually have the potential to show other states how to do this,” she said.
“If we can create thriving communities in California, maybe there’s some solution in there where we can cross boundaries of party lines.”
Mikee Gildea traveled from the Berkeley hills on Friday to to march in D.C. with her 18-year-old daughter, Maggie Beatty. As a mother of a gay child and a special needs child, Gildea felt it was especially important to show up in D.C. to protest an administration she feels is a threat to issues that directly affect her family.
“It just kills me that all the things that the Obama administration worked so hard to get done – special education, marriage equality reform – that touched my family are in danger of being thoroughly undone by someone who thinks that everyone loves him, even though he didn’t get the majority of votes,” she said.
She hopes that participation in the women’s march will encourage more grassroots organizing in preparation for the 2018 mid-term elections to try and “start swinging the pendulum back where it should be.”
“This idea that [Trump] struck a chord with so many Americans is so distressing that it felt like a time to go and be counted and make sure that the powers that be know that there were a lot of other voices out there that were not going to sit by and just watch our world get steamrolled,” she said.
Beatty, Gildea’s daughter, said she was glad to get out of her “liberal Bay Area bubble” and see how the rest of the world was reacting to President Trump’s inauguration.
“The march really made me see how nationwide the problems are,” she said. “It’s not just a theoretical concept off in the Midwest, it’s actually happening, and it’s something that I had just never seen before living in the Bay Area.”