Millions of words already have been written about the millions of marchers who, on Saturday, Jan. 21, peacefully paraded down streets of cities large and small, and little villages around the world to demonstrate their support of women, racial and religious minorities, the LGBTQ community and others who have felt threatened by President Donald Trump’s incoming administration.
In California, marches in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento and dozens of other cities drew hundreds of thousands of people to the streets to make their priorities known to the new president and congressional leaders.
Organizers estimate that between 100 and 150 people marched in Cambria, a last-minute gathering pulled together only a few days earlier to accommodate those who couldn’t get to the San Luis Obispo march. Some marchers wanted to attend a local memorial service set to begin a few hours later.
Cambria’s march on that dreary morning began about 9:45 a.m. and proceeded from the Veterans Memorial Building down the sidewalk on Main Street toward the East Village.
Before the march, Rice and North Coast Advisory Council member Mary Webb gathered the participants at the vets hall. Webb helped direct marchers across Cambria Drive, stopping them at intervals to let cars pass.
Judy Butler of Cambria said she was marching “for women’s rights — so much stuff is being taken away, especially by Congress.” She said she hoped the Women’s March movement would encourage more women to run for Congress and other offices.
For Butler and others in the march, the protest was a family affair. “My daughter’s marching in Austin (Texas), my sister’s marching in San Jose, and my granddaughter’s down in Orange County, so I raised a good bunch.”
My daughter’s marching in Austin (Texas), my sister’s marching in San Jose, and my granddaughter’s down in Orange County, so I raised a good bunch.
Judy Butler of Cambria, march participant
Joy Lease of Cambria said her daughter was marching in Arkansas, and Sharon Heyne of Cambria said her daughter would be marching at 4 p.m. “with her posse” in San Francisco, and “my 1-month-old grandson is wheeling in San Jose.”
An organizer’s motivation
Why did so many women, girls, men and boys march on that one day?
Gail Bunting is one of the organizers of the Together We Will — Cambria group and its parent group in San Luis Obispo, where thousands of marchers (estimates range from 7,000 to 10,000) paraded peacefully in the rain from Mitchell Park through downtown and back to the park.
Why? Here’s Bunting’s answer from a Jan. 12 email interview, in her own words.
“You asked me why I am marching. Bottom line, I have skin in the game,” she wrote.
“I have interracial family members, a brother with Down syndrome, an aging parent, and I have spent most my life in the shadows, ashamed. Identifying as a lesbian was not a safe stance to take in my teenage and early adult life. Never in my life did I think that this country would have gay characters on TV, let alone legalize gay marriage.
“As I have grown in age and wisdom and the ability to truly be myself, I dared to dream that the next few generations behind me would never know the social discrimination I have experienced.”
Bunting supported Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy and was devastated when she was defeated in the Electoral College.
“I decided right then and there I will not be silent about this! I have been silent my whole life! I will not watch this country fall back 50 years or more on women’s rights and misogyny. I will not be silent while the minority roars all the progressive work back to its roots.”
She joined the online group Pantsuit Nation and watched plans develop for the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. “I was inspired to go! Then Los Angeles was hosting, San Francisco, Sacramento, then San Luis Obispo! How wonderful that I can stay in my community and march with my neighbors and friends.
“Starting the group in Cambria has given me an avenue to channel my fears and my anxiety ... organize with likeminded neighbors and share our disappointments, disbeliefs and visions of how we can join our voices and our love for our democracy and inclusiveness as a nation.
I will not watch this country fall back 50 years or more on women’s rights and misogyny.
Gail Bunting of Cambria, march organizer
“I cannot watch from the comfort of my couch. I will march with the thousands who will march on the 21st across this country, proclaiming that women’s rights, minority rights, LGBTQ, Muslims … all Americans deserve equal protection and justice …that LOVE Trumps HATE and we do not want divisiveness, we want true leadership and inclusion.
“This is why I will march.”
Two days after the event, Bunting was still exultant about the worldwide success of the Women’s March.
In a Jan. 23 email interview, she wrote of the San Luis Obispo event, “It was an epic day … the response was wonderful. Seventy percent of Together We Will members are new to activism and are eager to find ways to get involved with their communities and the broader national debate. It was a sheer delight to see the enthusiasm.”
She said, “the energy was ecstatic, yet grounded. I generally don’t like crowds, but I felt completely a-part-of and safe. I was moved to tears as we started to move out of the park and into the march route. People were friendly, diverse, polite and kind.
“There were children and elders of our community slowly walking and sharing a common desire; acceptance, love, unity, inclusion, justice.
Kathe Tanner: 805-927-4140