From Australia to Alaska, London to Saudi Arabia, Nigeria to Antarctica, pink-knitted hats stretched, as an estimated 4.7 million people from all over the world attended simultaneous, peaceful “sister marches” on January 21 to show solidarity for human rights and equality for all.
The mood of the passengers on bus #1 heading to D.C. the drizzly morning of the march was anything but dreary. Thirteen buses left Rhode Island, bound for Washington, D.C., including 660 passionate Rhode Island women and men, all barely able to control their excitement.
Warwick resident Kathy Ogni attended the D.C. march with her 14-year-old daughter Mikayla, “I’ve never felt anything like it. Everyone was so positive and hopeful, singing, chanting, laughing.” Ogni joined 22 friends and relatives who flew into D.C. “We all believe we cannot afford to be silent when our rights and those of others are being jeopardized.”
According to Nancy Rafi, organizer for the RI Chapter of the D.C. March, every known bus and train available from Rhode Island to D.C. was booked with marchers, flights were packed, trains were added, and many people also carpooled. The RI Chapter knew of 1,500 marchers; however, as many as thousands more attended on their own, including Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman David Cicilline. Both marched alongside Rhode Islanders.
“Every one of us was overwhelmed with a sense of solidarity and unity,” says Ogni. “The crowd was so thick and went on for miles; most of us couldn’t connect with other Rhode Islanders, as we’d planned. But we marched in spirit and we marched as one, with everyone else there. People were supporting each other, often holding hands with strangers, offering each other food and water. There was absolutely no violence. It was truly powerful and humbling.”
Dana Oneill, of Cranston, said the march was incredible. “It was powerful; I was really proud of the show of support that I think our country needs.”
Locally, more than 7,000 people were taking part in Rhode Island’s sister event, The RI Women’s Solidarity Rally. Governor Gina Raimondo kicked off the event, saying, “The people of Rhode Island are not going to compromise on our core values. Those include having economic opportunity and religious freedom.”
Twenty-four speakers and performers followed Raimondo, including powerful speeches by State Representative Aaron Regunberg and long-time LGBTQ advocate Kate Montiero, as well as an inspiring performance by 17-year-old singer Isa Arango.
Hundreds of signs poked out above the crowd blanketing the statehouse lawn. One sign read: “No Hate in The Little State,” another, “Girls Just Want to Have Fundamental Rights.”
“The fact that we were able to mobilize such an outpouring of humanity proves how passionately the people want to live in a just and equitable society. This demonstration shows us what our country could look like when the American promise of freedom and justice for all is finally realize,” said organizer Shanna Wells said.
“The rally was inspirational! It was empowering, inclusive and huge,” said Jim Vincent of Cranston, president of the Providence NAACP. “My hope is that we Rhode Islanders will continue to say no to racism, misogyny, homophobia and Islamaphobia.”
“I marched because I had to. I didn’t want to sit at home and do nothing. I felt like it’s a really big global concern…and was horrified to have someone who casually discussed sexual assaults voted in,” said O’Neill. “I hope that people are activated to become involved in politics on a grassroots level or any level they feel they can participate in the solution of the stressful situation the country is under with the current government.”
“I think we felt a collective sense of relief,” said Ogni. “We could finally be heard, start to take action, and we were surrounded by millions of others who share our values and concerns. The sense of unity was overwhelming. Many of us were in tears. I feel forever changed and more powerful after this experience.”
As a follow-up to the National Women’s March on Washington, organizers posted information about the 10 Actions in 10 Days campaign, which can be found at www.womensmarch.com/100. The campaign calls for marchers to get friends, family and community together and continue the momentum.
Locally, the RI Chapter of Women’s March on Washington encourages everyone who marched as well as anyone in RI who supports human rights and equality to visit their website at www.riwomensmarch.com and join their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/WMWRI. Local actions and events will take place on a regular basis.