Alexis Jade Ferguson
Over four million people gathered in cities across the world to protest the rhetoric of the past election cycle and support the rights of an array of communities. In the spirit of democracy, the world-wide event began with the Women’s March in Washington D.C. The participants sought to send a message to newly-elected President Donald J. Trump and to represent groups they deemed as marginalized.
At the Civic Center Plaza in downtown San Diego, more than 30,000 people stood in solidarity to promote justice and equality for all races and genders. From immigrants and natives to the LGBTQ+ community and advocates of ObamaCare, protesters spoke out about topics ranging from economic status, ethnicity, sexual identity and the environment. Among those individuals were students, teachers and alumni from Bonita Vista High School.
“It’s not an anti-Trump protest, it’s about getting recognition for women’s rights. I feel like Donald Trump represents the white-supremacist, old-conservative views and that’s not what this generation is about,” 2014 BVH alumna Madison Beck said. “I feel like if we let him do this, we are letting the older generation take women’s rights and human rights backwards. So we have to get our voice out so that we can change our country and eventually the world.”
Through enforcing that women’s rights are human rights, protesters vocalized their opinions with regards to reproductive health and pro-choice avenues. “My body, my choice” was only one among the many chants conveyed by the marchers in opposition to federal funding bans on Planned Parenthood. Sexual assault survivors demonstrated against rape culture, bearing signs saying “War on women“ or statements targeted at Trump concerning the recent sexual harassment allegations against him.
“I was a high-school counselor in the Republican administration. We had gag orders put on us and I couldn’t offer girls all of their options with regards to reproductive rights,” Planned Parenthood member Jan Means said. “It is very important for me that girls know all of their choices and have all the rights to make up their own minds up about what they want to do with their bodies. Women’s healthcare is already on the table.”
Lead organizer of the San Diego Women’s March Sarah Shaftel was unable to attend the central protest in Washington D.C., so she created her own Facebook page to organize an event in her local community. Within one night, 300 people joined her page and within the next few days, that number increased by over 73 percent.
“Not just women need to take action. We all need to take care of each other in this country. It doesn’t matter if you are black, white, or Jewish, anything. What matters is that we are people and we have to take responsibility for our rights,” Shaftel said.
Before the march started, several speakers shared their stories about racial, sexual and gender discrimination. Among the crowd stood both men and women with similar interests regarding civil disobedience and concerns about the future of the younger generations.
“I plan to stand together with those who do not have the privilege that I do, in order to show that there are people who are willing to work together to achieve equality for all people, and to send a message to the government that we will not sit silently while the values of over half the country are not being protected,” senior Nathan Kinsella said following the protest.
The protesters marched over two miles in the rain from the Civic Center plaza to the San Diego City and County Administration building. Police were stationed along the streets to ensure peaceful interaction.
“We honor ourselves and have pride in being one of the freest nations in the world and for us to step on the rights of others, that’s injustice, especially if we strive to be a leader among other countries,” junior Michael Lopez said during the march. “We cannot be silent but we must be peaceful as well. We must not stoop to the lows of the evil that we are trying to defeat or overcome.”
Because of the on-going chants from the protesters, the march lasted longer than expected. People from all across San Diego joined in the effort for national and international unity within the diverse communities present.
“Silence equals approval. I just knew that it was important that I march for my conscience and the sake of my daughter and all the girls that I teach who feel disenfranchised and underrepresented by the current administration,” Accelerated, Advanced Placement and IB Biology teacher Dr. Michelle Mardhal-Dumesnil said at the protest. “The Senate and House need to know that Trump’s agenda is not a mandate. This march is just the beginning.”
For many, the Women’s March is only one step in an age-old struggle for civil rights independent of governmental interference. Nevertheless, the protesters carry hope that one day, their message will be heard.
“I stand by the quote: ‘If not now, when? If not me, who? Sometimes it’s gotta be you and sometimes it’s gotta be now. You are the future. I’m looking into your eyes now and I can just see you’re going to have to keep this going in order to take action and make sure people are held accountable-—that the government is held accountable,” Shaftel said. “The only way to do that is to stand up for your rights as a woman—as a human being. We need to rise up. Show up and shine on.”