'We will push back': Thousands rally for 2018 Women's March on Lansing
LANSING — A sea of pink hats, protest signs and passionate chants filled the front lawn of the Michigan State Capitol at the 2018 Women's March on Lansing: Power to the Polls event.
Thousands gathered Jan. 21 in Lansing to mark the one-year anniversary of the 2017 Women's March in Washington, D.C. that followed President Donald Trump's inauguration. Similar marches were organized around the nation attracting millions of participants in cities like Lansing.
This year's speakers focused on the power of women and the power of the voting. The event attracted Democratic politicians hoping to pull voters for the 2018 election. One such politician was Shri Thanedar, a scientist who is now running for governor of Michigan.
“I want to make a difference," Thanedar said. "What I saw in Flint, Michigan — when our own state government poisoned our own citizens — that’s when I really felt that its time for me to do the next thing. I have achieved my American dream, but the American dream is fading more so in Michigan than any other place."
With an afternoon featuring 14 speakers, women gave their takes on different issues such as sexual assault, equal pay for women, the current political climate and immigration.
- Nicole Denson, associate director of Advocacy Services for the WC SAFE sexual assault program
- Jeynce Poindexter, Transgender Victims Advocate for Equality Michigan
- Lilianna Reyes, program services director of Michigan’s largest LGBT Community Center, Affirmations
- Emily Durbin, Michigan chapter leader, Moms Demand Action
- LaShawn Erby, co-chapter lead and co-founding member of Black Lives Matter Lansing
- Gayle Hamilton, associate direcor of Labor Studies Center at Wayne State University
- Chia Morgan, State of Michigan
- Heather Bruegl, member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin
- Sheerin Siddique, attorney
- Fatou-Seydi Sarr, founder and executive director of ABISA (African Bureau for Immigration and Social Affairs)
- Phoebe Hopps, founder of Women's March Michigan
- Elder Leslie Mathews, organizer with Michigan United
- The Snowbird Singers
- Cindy Garcia, speaking on behalf of her deported husband
Emcee Mahogany Jones, introduced all the speakers and continuously shouted to the audience the phrase "power to the polls."
"Give it up for Michigan, standing here saying 'time's up,' " Jones said. "We will not be oppressed, we will not be pushed down — we will push back."
Engaging with speakers, the crowd consistently shouted chants such as "Donald Trump has got to go" and "this is what democracy looks like."
Phoebee Hopps, president and founder of Women's March Michigan said how honored and amazed she was by the spirit and turnout of the crowd. She noted the beginning of the Women's March Michigan was the beginning of a global movement for change.
"My feminism and my movement is inclusive of all women," Hopps said. "This is not a celebration or a parade Michigan women, this is the beginning of the fight of our lives."
Hopps called out politicians in office who are not working for women and children. She challenged them by saying on election day, protestors will bring strength and power to the polls.
"We are coming for you," she said. "(In) 2018 we have this. I believe that we can win."
After attending the march in Washington, D.C. last year Stephani Farmer of Grand Rapids came to the rally to experience it with her husband and children. Her five-year-old daughter, Hadley could be seen sitting on her shoulders holding a sign that said “I am the future."
“It's important for all of our kids, not just our daughters, to be able to come out and see what it means to stand up for what you believe in — equality, not just women's rights, rights for everybody," Farmer said. "I want my kids to grow up in a world where they’re not restricted in how they want to live."
Nicole Denson spoke and shared that she was a sexual assault survivor.
"I want to live in a society where we don't have a 'Me Too' movement," she said. "We need to bring power to the polls so there won't be another Weinstein, R. Kelly or Trump."
Denson proceeded to ask the audience to put their fists in the air for sexual assault survivors.
"We believe you," the crowd and Denson chanted.
While there were no counter protesters, few in the crowd offered dissenting opinions.
Loren Darling, 35, of East Lansing, stood with several others advocating for the Michigan Right to Life movement.
“(I came here to show) love for pre-born people who don’t have a voice," he said. "I am not a Trump supporter, I don’t think he’s qualified to run the country."
President Trump's administration is what brought Pilar Gonzales, 63, of Port Huron, to the event.
“If I could look at (Trump) face to face I would tell him to walk a mile in my moccasins," he said. "(He need's) to feel what it is like to have no security."
With the political climate disseminating into the speeches, immigration was brought up by Cindy Garcia who shared her husband was deported on Monday after living in U.S. since he was 10 years old. While she spoke with her two children by her side, activists of Michigan United sat on the front steps of the capitol with signs that read "stop separating families."
People responded to her with chanting "not my president."
Staff Reporter Jeremy Agosta contributed to this article.