Last Saturday, about 175,000 people from the greater Puget Sound area, including Redmond and the Eastside, gathered in Seattle for the Women’s March on Seattle.
While the march — along with the roughly 600 sister marches worldwide, including one in Washington, D.C. that saw about half a million marchers — was a response to the 2016 presidential election results, the Seattle event was also a call to action, with almost 200 nonprofit organizations present for people to learn more about and possibly get involved with as well.
“Today is about turning anger into action,” said Aneelah Afzali while addressing the crowd during a rally at Judkins Park before the march began.
Following the march, she said now the real work begins. Afzali said while it was great to come together and march, it will be hollow if people do not follow up and take action.
WAKING UP TO REALITY
Afzali, who is the founder and executive director of MAPS-AMEN (American Muslim Empowerment Network) at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS) in Redmond, was just one of a number of speakers at the rally.
She discussed the contributions that Muslims and Muslim Americans have made to their communities, from the medical field to the battlefield. Afzali also discussed the hate crimes against Muslims in this country — including the two times the MAPS sign was vandalized in the span of about a month as well as the burning down of the Islamic Center of the Eastside in Bellevue.
She said following her speech, a number of marchers approached her, telling her that she had inspired them to take action. Others told Afzali that they hadn’t been aware of the level of Islamophobia in this area or the hate crimes — some were even crying when they spoke with her.
“It’s reassuring that people are waking up to what’s happening,” Afzali said.
For Afzali, one of the highlights of the march was seeing a strong group of American Muslims participating. She said a number of people — non-Muslims — approached the group to offer their support and love.
“That was beautiful,” Afzali said.
To learn more about taking action and combatting Islamophobia, visit tinyurl.com/z78fd4m.
SUPPORTING EACH OTHER
The Seattle march was officially called the Womxn’s March on Seattle, with “Women” spelled with an “X.” As previously reported, this was because the march was intersectional and open to people of all identities.
“It is about all of us taking care of each other,” one of the speakers said during the pre-march rally.
This was reflected throughout the day as a common theme was one of coming together and supporting each other — from speakers’ remarks to marchers’ chants and signs.
Organizers and speakers also acknowledged the native and indigenous tribes — whose members led the march — of the area.
“We’re all immigrants except for our indigenous sisters or brothers,” Afzali said.
From women’s reproductive rights, to Black Lives Matter, to supporting immigrant and refugee rights, there were a number of reasons for why people marched on Saturday.
NOTHING’S GOING TO STOP HER
Redmond resident Amy Epperson marched because she liked the idea of women supporting women and being each others’ cheerleaders.
“I thought it was just awesome,” she said about the experience.
Another reason she marched was for her 6-year-old daughter.
Epperson said the atmosphere did not feel “anti-Donald Trump,” referring to the new president, but was very positive and supportive, describing it as a “day of love.”
“It just helped renew my faith in humanity,” she said about what she was able to take away from the experience.
She marched with a group of four of other mothers from the Eastside. The group decided to participate a few months ago and for Epperson, there was no doubt in her mind that she would be going to the march. Even when she was diagnosed with cancer last month, she said she never considered not attending the march.
“I was not going to let it stop me,” said Epperson, who is in the middle of a chemotherapy cycle.
Although she felt good on the day of the march, her friends were very supportive and told her that they could stop early if they needed to. But Epperson said she was able to walk the entire 3.6 miles from Judkins Park to Seattle Center.
She admitted to having some sore muscles the next day, but so did her friends so Epperson attributed that to the march and not her health.
While attending the march was a foregone conclusion for Epperson, Barbara Feldon remained on the fence about participating until the week leading up to the event.
The Redmond Ridge resident said this was because while she opposes Trump, she knows people who hold differing political views.
Feldon said she marched because she feels Trump does not represent the good and wise decision making required in a leader. She said she doesn’t need to agree with a leader’s politics but she does not trust Trump’s judgment. She also noted how he has made light of sexual assault against women.
“That feels very, very wrong,” Feldon said. “It scares me.”
Another concern she has is the fact that the new president does not rely on facts or scientific evidence.
Feldon marched with her sister and nieces as well as some friends.
“It was great,” she said about the experience.
Feldon said it was awesome to see the different causes people were supporting and enjoyed reading the different signs people were carrying — although she admitted that the content on some signs may have been a little inappropriate for younger children.
Her favorite sign was one that stated “Nice matters” because kindness and decency are important. Feldon noted how former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama practiced this and modeled the saying of, “When they go low, we go high.”
Feldon said she finds it so harmful that Trump practices the opposite.
MARCHING FOR A MORE CERTAIN FUTURE
For one Bellevue resident, the march was about expressing her opinion.
The woman is an immigrant from Venezuela and in the United States seeking political asylum. She asked to remain anonymous as current discussions regarding immigration leave her uncertain about her status and future in this country.
“It makes me nervous,” she said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The woman said she has seen in her home country what happens when human rights are taken away and marched in Venezuela against the government there.
“I don’t want to repeat that history again,” she said.
The woman said her wish is for the new administration to create more opportunities for everyone, not take away opportunities. She added that immigrants are a great workforce and as a result, they are great for the economy.
Despite her uncertainty and her nerves, the woman said the march was amazing and her favorite thing about it was just seeing how many people from all walks of life and backgrounds were united for the cause. She was particularly impressed by the men who were standing up for women’s rights.
“We are equal humans,” she said.