In Ohio they call us “Cincinnati nice,” because we are a conservative but polite little city. But on Saturday, January 21st, the people of Cincinnati and Hamilton county showed the world that we can also rise up and protest in “a progressive, passionate and peaceful” way. This was the tone set for the WMW sister march organized by Billie Mays.
Since Clinton had actually won Hamilton county, a little blue dot in a sea of red, Mays figured there were many women out there who were frustrated, scared, or just plain angry. It started as a callout on her Facebook page a mere three weeks ago. By the evening of January 20, Mays had media publicity, grassroots supporters, a lineup of amazing speakers, and funding that exceeded the costs of a park permit and security. Mays felt it was important to “follow the rules” to legitimize our march.
Driving into downtown Cincinnati the morning of the march I could tell something special was about to happen. Under a gray sky and 60-degree temperatures — downright balmy for January in Ohio — demonstrators came by the thousands. We were expecting 4,000 at best and would have been happy if 2,000 actually came. According to the parade marshals, the unofficial count was estimated between 12 and 14,000!
I arrived early, walked around, and talked to supporters as the park began to fill with people of every demographic. I spoke to C.J. Pierce who volunteered to be a marshal, and she told me that she was encouraged to see so many “first timers.” As a boomer, she said she hopes this march will help people: “…find each other who are like minded and not feel so isolated in these battles.” Pierce seemed almost wistful when she told me, “This same battle has been going on since the sixties, and had the Equal Rights Amendment been ratified, would this be necessary now?” She is concerned that we are going backward, and is worried about people she knows “…getting hurt in the name of Trump.”
This theme of backtracking was also expressed by Lila Rose Barrer, a young, openly transgender person I spoke to who feels: “We’re relapsing into the pre-sixties and we need to fight harder than ever” — to push back against public displays of racism and sexism. She continued: “We need to get ahead of it…the worst thing to do is to stop fighting social injustices because they last several generations.” As a millennial, Barrer is ready to stand up and take up the fight once again.
There was music and laughter, hugging, and chanting by everyday people. Some brought their dogs. Many brought their children in strollers or packed them on their shoulders. Some marched in their wheelchairs. Some of my favorite signs read: “I’m here for Carrie Fisher,” “Mother by Choice,” “Feminism Back by Popular Demand,” “In this Together,” “We will Not go Back,” “Our Rights are not up for Grabs,” and “The Future is Female.”
The march was preceded by inspirational speakers from Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood, and the Islamic Center of Cincinnati. In addition, several local politicians spoke and David Mann, Vice Mayor of Cincinnati read Mayor John Cranley’s proclamation designating January 21, 2017 as “Women’s Day” in Cincinnati.
I marched with all of these exuberant and passionate people past the majestic Music Hall and other architectural gems in this historic area of Cincinnati, referred to by locals as “Over the Rhine” or OTR — named for its early German immigrant population. I felt a sense of purpose walking on the original cobblestone streets, knowing that we were making history on them once again.
The chanting and singing by the marchers was inspirational. I watched onlookers cheering at us from parking garages along the parade route, homeowners waving pride flags standing on their front porches, and random people in cars stuck in traffic honking and waving at us. I felt exhilarated and proud to be part of this special day.
After the march ended, I saw two women running after another couple yelling, “Hey, did you lose your Apple watch?” And sure thing, the couple turned around and the woman said, “Oh my god, thank you, I didn’t even realize it fell off!” Like I said, “Cincinnati Nice.”
Susan Medure-Cantrell is a long time writer, marketer, and lover of all things political. Her parents had house parties when she was in grade school for JFK’s historic run for the Presidency. Susan has been working in Media Sales for the past 20 years with Cox Media, Gannett, and Block Communications.