Women's March on Lansing draws about 8,000 people
LANSING — Nearly 8,000 people crowded in front of the Michigan Capitol Building on Saturday — some backed up across the street and others on rooftops.
"Yes we can," they chanted. "Yes we will."
The Women's March on Lansing at 1 p.m. Saturday was organized to coincide with the Women's March On Washington in the nation's capitol. The website for the march states the goal was to be "a peaceful demonstration in opposition to the wave of hate crimes and violence, and threats of official discrimination that have proliferated following the election."
Michigan Capitol Facilities estimated 8,000 people attended.
"I expected a lot of people but there’s way more here than I thought would be," said Anna Salinas, a Grand Rapids senior and Central Michigan University student. "Everyone’s chanting, shouting and singing together. It's great to see a whole community coming together to fight for what they believe in and what they think is right.”
President Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States Friday. Gretchen Whitmer, a candidate for the 2018 Michigan gubernatorial election, gave an opening speech and said the number of people at the Women's March on Washington was double the attendance for President Trump's inauguration.
Whitmer referenced former First Lady Michelle Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July when Obama said of bullies, "When they go low, we go high."
"We can start right here in Michigan to show the world what our country should look like," Whitmer said.
She wants to improve Michigan and said the 2016 election was important in recognizing the suffering across the state. Whitmer said too many Michiganders have paid the price for failed leadership.
"We will be a state that puts our people first," Whitmer said.
She said Saturday's march was a wake-up call for Michigan and recommended plans of action for those in attendance: make advocacy intersectional, talk to neighbors and weigh in on her platform.
"We cannot take anything or anyone for granted," she said.
Whitmer was followed by a lineup of speakers including Lavonia Perryman, who received her Master's degree in institutional education from CMU.
Perryman, who supported and worked for Hillary Clinton on her campaign, said the day following the election was the most painful experience she ever had. She said the Women's March On Lansing "got her going again."
"We've got to make a difference today," Perryman said.
Several CMU students were on-hand, including Salinas and five others who are a part of the social work program. They traveled to Lansing to attend an advocacy event for their class, Social Work 450: Social Welfare Policies and Services II.
“I gained a lot of hope today," Alpena senior Lindsey Daoust said. “My biggest takeaway is that I’m not alone and I’m not the only one that’s scared out of their mind and angry. This is the best thing I’ve been to in a long time and I really needed it.”
Gretchen Driskell, former Michigan Democratic House member, and Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown were among those who took the podium. Jessica Lumbreras, a 2010 CMU alumna and Planned Parenthood advocate, also spoke. Among the topics the speakers promoted was equality and accessibility to reproductive health care.
The rally also included a performance from the Sistrum Women's Choir.
Mount Pleasant senior Chris Yoder made the decision at 12:30 p.m. Saturday to head to the March on Lansing. He was shocked to see the thousands of people in front of the Capitol building when he arrived an hour later.
Yoder hopes Trump will do well in his term but said his cabinet picks have him worried. He said the key will be keeping Trump honest with himself and making sure he represents the people.
“The people here are not alone,” Yoder said. “We definitely need to keep fighting and it’s very uplifting to see how many people actually believe in equal rights.”
Education was a theme of the march — as Whitmer and Brown were among the speakers who spoke against Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for secretary of education.
Mount Pleasant residents Matt and Jonnie Taton both have about 50 years of education experience. Matt is currently a teacher at Mount Pleasant Public Schools, while Jonnie is a doctoral student at CMU.
Both were at the march after original plans to travel to Washington, D.C. did not materialize, Matt said. Arriving Saturday morning, the two were surprised to turn around during the rally and see people standing across the street.
Matt said “things are going to happen quickly” under the Trump administration, and people need to contact their representatives and senators and get out and vote.
“We’re standing in solidarity for women’s rights, civil rights, human’s rights and maintaining (the overalap of social identities) and making sure all our voices are heard,” Jonnie said.
The event was followed by the Women Organize Michigan Summit, part of a group of summits that "address and further progressive causes that matter most to women," according to its website. The crowd slimmed from the march to the summit.
Stockbridge senior Shelby Scutchfield, one of the social work students, said America is divided. She said seeing the crowd in front of the state Capitol building on Saturday helped everyone come together. Her classmate, Adrian senior Megan Bartenslager, agreed.
“It’s really refreshing to see how many people came out to this,” Bartenslager said. “I think this is a step in the right direction and hopefully in the future we can find that common ground.”