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SF Women’s March draws thousands despite stormy weather

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Thousands of people gather for the Women’s March at Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. (Emma Marie Chiang/Special to the S.F. Examiner)
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Tens of thousands of people took to the rainy streets of San Francisco on Saturday to stand up for women’s rights, just one day after Donald Trump was sworn in as President.

The crowd, estimated by one San Francisco police officer as “at least 150,000” people, attended a two-hour rally before marching down Market Street, cheerful and loud despite the pouring rain.

The Women’s March in San Francisco was one of 673 reported across the United States, according to event organizers. The largest march took place in Washington, D.C., with an estimated half a million people in attendance. But the movement also spread globally; women marched in major cities such as Sydney, Berlin, London, Paris and Cape Town.

Small groups of protesters began gathering at Civic Center at 2 p.m on Saturday, trickling in from neighborhoods all around The City. By the time the speakers took the stage at 3 p.m., the crowd had swelled to thousands, and attendees struggled to move through the Civic Center area. One volunteer noted that the event’s attendance was much higher than organizers anticipated.

(Emma Marie Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)

(Emma Marie Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)

The diversity of issues that the Women’s March encompassed may have accounted for its massive size. Thousands of homemade signs, many of which quickly turned soggy in the downpour, expressed personal beliefs and asks from the government.

“My taco is nacho business,” read one sign, promoting reproductive rights. “We need to talk about the elephant in the womb,” stated another.

Many protesters called for a more lax and humane approach to immigration. “Build bridges, not walls” was a common slogan for both signs and chants.

A return to core values was another common ask. “Vengeance is not an American value,” stated a placard held by a senior woman. “Thanks Obama, we got it from here,” said another, held by two lesbian moms and their daughter.

Groups of young women found their own ways to protest — one group of teens dressed in pink loudly sang along to Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl,” while several more chanted “we want a leader, not a creepy tweeter.”

The crowd’s diversity was also apparent in where they came from. Attendees spoke French, German, Chinese and Russian to each other. “Mujeres unidas, jamás serán vencidas” said one sign carried by a group of Latinas, translating to “women united, will never be defeated.”

And while it was very much a “Women’s March,” thousands of men joined in the cause. One man carried a simple cardboard sign that read, “feminist”; another held a sign saying, “I’m with her,” with arrows pointing in all directions.

At the rally prior to the march, writer and activist Julia Serano spoke about the struggles facing women, queer and transgender individuals.

“We are participating in an organized resistance against forces that are actively trying to disempower and disenfranchise us” Serano said. “But what we are engaged in today is not identity politics. If it’s anything, it’s empathy politics.”

Supervisor Jane Kim opened to screams when she said, “My name is Jane Kim, and I’m a nasty woman. How many of you are nasty women out there? How many of you plan on getting nastier in 2017?”

Kim spoke passionately about how San Francisco is leading the charge with women in politics. She listed the women on the Board of Supervisors — London Breed, Malia Cohen, Katy Tang, Sandra Lee Fewer and Hillary Ronen — noting they were also in the crowd that day.

“We will join you to march against hate,” Kim said, “and we will vote Trump out of San Francisco.”

As the rally progressed, temperatures dropped and rain began drizzling steadily. By the time Joan Baez began a musical performance at 4:45 p.m., it was pouring. Pink raincoats came out, and umbrellas — many with statements — opened up. ”I refuse to sink” said one.

Despite the unmanageable crowds and dismal weather, the energy of the congregation was one of jubilation and solidarity. Those standing while listening to the speakers squished themselves under shared umbrellas, laughing as puddles got deeper, covering their feet. Instead of sending people home, it appeared the rain only pulled them closer together.

The march launched down toward Justin Herman Plaza before the speakers finished talking, as antsy participants out of earshot began moving down San Francisco’s main artery. It was then that the vastness of the gathering could be perceived; marchers spilled over the sides of Market Street onto the sidewalks, and it took a little under two hours for the entirety of the marchers to pass by Fifth and Market streets.

The peaceful atmosphere ultimately prevailed. Approximately a dozen medical calls related to the event were made, according to the San Francisco Police Department, but nothing was thought to be life-threatening. No arrests were made.

Jan. 21 will go down in history as one of the biggest expressions of women’s rights in the nation, and San Francisco certainly played its part. As speaker Angelica Vargas, a UC Berkeley student and an undocumented immigrant, put it, “I don’t know how we’ll do it, but we’ll do it with love.”

 
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Over 500,000 people descended on the streets of Washington, D.C. Saturday, January 21, 2017 to attend the Women's March on Washington. (Kristen Tomkowid/Special to S.F. Examiner)




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