Exceeding expectations, over 400 people joined the women’s march Saturday through downtown The Dalles, making a 1.1-mile loop that began and ended at City Park on Union Street.
Pink hats and political signs abounded, as the crowd listened to speakers before heading for the protest march that was kept to the sidewalks because no permits were obtained for it, an organizer said.
The marchers filed down both sides of the street, and helpers were posted at intersections to stop marchers and allow vehicles to drive by. Some in vehicles looked puzzled as they drove by the surge of marchers.
It was the second such march in The Dalles, with the first one a year ago drawing 150 people after just 48 hours of planning. It was thrown together when two local women were unable to get to the Portland march because a snowstorm closed Interstate 84.
Those two women, Amber Orion and Rosie Schneider, went on to form Gorge ReSisters, an activist group.
Schneider spoke of the first march in The Dalles, when 150 people “marched through the snow covered sidewalks of our conservative community. We realized that day our community was ready to activate and mobilize against the ideals of our administration.”
While most marchers were women, a number of men were present. Dan Hoffman of The Dalles said, “As a Christian, I think that God has a strong desire to see women treated as he intended. That sounds preachy, but I think that’s why I’m here, and solidarity is important.”
Hanna Russell, 15, of Trout Lake, Wash., said she was there to march for women’s rights.
Cynthia Tusing, also of Trout Lake, said, “I’m marching because I feel like our country is become more and more divided and any chance to show support for minorities, I want to take advantage of that.”
Tori Macnab-Medina, of The Dalles, was pushing a stroller and had a toddler also along. She was marching because, “I didn’t last year and I felt really bad about it. I have a son and I want him to know his sister and his mom matter.”
Speaker Antonia Kabakov said her Mescalero Apache grandmother picked cotton alongside former slaves in the South, then moved to California for the promise of a new life.
She said for her grandmother, there was no time to tell women to get back in the kitchen or get off campus.
She said, “What will I tell my own grandchildren as we see all of social and economic progress put on hold? Well, I saw without a doubt we are here to fight for a better life for all the children until these marches and demonstrations are a thing of the past.”
She said, “Today we see injustices running like wildfire throughout our country, attacking the poor and the vulnerable and again, the immigrants.”
She said what was needed was a non-violent revolution of millions of small acts of kindness every day. She urged people to grow their compassion, get to know their neighbors.
She urged marchers, “Don’t think that you have no power. Believe that you can make a difference.”
She ended with a call and response from the crowd, asking for a “yes” on education, equal opportunities, the LGBTQ movement, a path to citizenship for immigrants, the environment and Black Lives Matter.
Speaker Rebecca Bacon Ehlers spoke about the “horrible, frightening magical year” the country had lived through since Trump’s election. She said her travels have shown her that inequality exists everywhere, but in the U.S., “we’ve created systems of oppression that are so big and complicated that they touch most people’s lives, but we struggle to even describe them with words.”
There’s been positive change, but the core issues remain, she said. “I’d say that’s because we haven’t put a lot of energy into thinking about the cultural values underlying those harmful systems.”
She said little thought has been given to why “somebody has to be on the bottom in the first place.”
She quoted poet Audre Lorde, who said, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” She believed creating a new toolset was the key to long-term social justice.
She also struggled with staying positive, saying she would compulsively read negative news articles and negative think pieces on things she already knew about, and she loved her “icky feeling of superiority” when reading an article where she already knew what the criticism would be.
She realized she was just in a worse mood and hadn’t learned anything.
She said it was important to not abandon outrage, but instead of focusing on people who aren’t doing something right, uplift those who are. “Because that’s where our support is needed the most.”
She stressed the importance of community, saying that since Trump’s election, she has networked more and made strong friendships. “I feel so much more connected.”
Speaker Gabriela Garcia said she was “undocumented and unafraid.” She gained DACA protection four years ago, saying, “My parents are the original dreamers who immigrated to this country in hope for the American Dream and the pursuit of happiness.”
She talked about turning 16 in high school and watching her friends get a driver’s license, which she was not entitled to. “I was undocumented and wasn’t able to feel that freedom or taste the privilege that simple plastic card that reads ‘driver’s license’ gave you.”
As a DACA recipient, she now has a driver’s license, a Social Security number and a valid working permit. Her DACA permit expires in the fall, when she risks deportation and potentially having her family divided.
She spoke of the stress of her life as an undocumented person.
“I am tired of being overshadowed by politics and ideology. I am undocumented and unafraid. I will continue to fight for all my fellow DREAMERs until we get a clean Dream Act. I believe we will win.”
The local march was one of hundreds of women’s marches held nationally and around the world in opposition to the presidency of Donald Trump and in support of women’s rights, immigration rights, minority rights, LGBTQ rights and the environment.
The pink hats designed to look like cat ears were popularized at last year’s march, in response to a 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape showing a vulgar comment from Trump about grabbing women’s genitalia.