The sun shone brightly on a sea of an estimated 6,000 marchers in Medford Saturday at the Southern Oregon Women’s March.
Women and men clad in pink, draped in rainbow flags and waving witty posters marched from Hawthorne Park to Pear Blossom Park to promote solidarity and equality among all peoples. Many wore "pussy hats," knit caps with cat-like ears.
Sharon Dohrmann, event organizer, said this year was different than last year’s march, which was held in Ashland, for a lot of people, including herself.
“Last year was more of an emotional reaction to what was happening,” Dohrmann said of the march held the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated as president. “This year was more to remind people that they’re not alone. More than anything it’s a morale booster, to keep people motivated to register and vote.”
Dohrmann said there are 25,000 women nationwide registered to run for office in 2018, a record-breaking number.
A rally featuring local civic leaders and musicians greeted the crowd upon their arrival.
Jamie McLeod-Skinner, congressional candidate, voiced the fears of the current presidential administration.
“This is a time of women reclaiming our time … reclaiming our voice, and reclaiming our country,” McLeod-Skinner said. “This is a time of boys and men standing with us, looking at us for leadership, men who are inspired, not intimidated, by equality.”
Despite the Women's March name, the protest was for all races, genders and political affiliations to find harmony with one another. McLeod-Skinner listed the reasons people need to unite like a steady drumbeat echoing the footsteps of the protesters.
“We march for better government, for government that works for people, not for corporations … for better health care, so that caring for our families does not force us into bankruptcy or homelessness. We march for better education … for a college education that does not result in crippling debt,” McLeod-Skinner said.
Tambourines rattled and dogs barked as she ended her speech. The excitement in the crowd visibly rose as hand-made signs were thrust into the sky and a convergence of applause and screams nearly drowned her out.
“I march for Congress. Women make up less than 20 percent of our congressional representatives and it’s time for that to change,” McLeod-Skinner said. “It’s time to run like a girl.”
Participants came from all over the Rogue Valley to join in the demonstration.
Darby Ayers-Flood, Talent mayor, said she believes that the presidential administration is a direct attack on many women’s issues and that she hopes the long-term effect of these protests around the nation will create recognition.
“The forward motion that women need in this country, to have equity in the workplace, to have our family values protected, to have our bodies protected, is an evolving process and we still have a long way to go,” Ayers-Flood said. “My hope is that this nation will start to recognize that we’re not going to be talking about that from our living rooms anymore, we’re going to come out into the community and we’ll be heard.”
Sylvia Weaver, Ashland resident, said she believes organized protests are powerful because protestors can’t be ignored.
“I think just seeing the vast numbers of women will offset some of the negative press and news that we are faced with,” Weaver said. “It’s way past time for women to be represented, and to have influence and power in all aspects of our society.”
Ann Meissner, Ashland resident, said she appreciates the connection with people who are standing up to current day politics, and lack of civility.
“It (peaceful protests) helps people to feel connected to one another which allows them to take action, and remain committed to their beliefs rather than becoming complacent or feeling powerless,” Meissner said.
Many men marched alongside the women, supporting the movement by chiming in with their baritone chanting on such phrases as, “We need a leader, not a creepy tweeter.”
Mark Ropers, Ashland resident, said he was hesitant to attend the march last year because he is a male, "but it’s more of an inclusive recognition that’s necessary,” Ropers said. “It’s not an ‘us’ and ‘them.’ We’re all humans, and it’s important that we support each other.”
Joyce Van Anne, Ashland resident, said a sign reading “Harry would have died if it wasn’t for Hermione” reassured her that the younger generations are as heavily influenced by feminism and peaceful protesting as the older generations.
“I was a little daunted when we first arrived because it was all people of my age who lived through the Vietnam war, so I was pleasantly surprised as the march got started that there was more and more millennial-aged people,” Anne said.
— Contact Ashland freelance writer Caitlin Fowlkes at Caitlin.firstname.lastname@example.org.