The five organizers of the WMW Sister March in San Luis Obispo, California originally thought they would get 200 people to come. Suddenly, that number grew to 1,000. They watched on Facebook and their event registration page as the numbers grew and grew. In the end, it was estimated that 10,000 people attended the march. This turnout is extraordinary because San Luis Obispo is a very small county, still designated “rural” by the federal government.
I was glad I had made plans to meet up with my friends before the march began, a little distance away, because it would have been impossible to find each other in the throngs of people amassed at the park where the march began. Some of my friends brought their babies in strollers and front packs. We headed to the park where the festivities were beginning. The organizers had a wonderful program of speeches, music and poetry.
Deanna Cantrell, the chief of the San Luis Obispo police department spoke eloquently about the role of law enforcement to protect our right to assemble, saying: “Your message is an important one, not one of indifference, but one of togetherness, equality, fairness and freedom. A message of basic human rights that are inherent to all human beings, regardless of income, race, age, nationality, sex, color, religion, political preference, language, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation or any other status. These rights are interconnected and indivisible of one another.”
Throughout the march fellow demonstrators kept calling out numbers for the march in Washington DC. I heard “five hundred thousand,” and later, “one million!” My friends and I heard these numbers and knew that we were all part of the same moment, the same march. We knew that our sisters and brothers across the country were feeling the same sense of pride and unity of purpose that we were all feeling in our little downtown district.
The weather forecast for the morning of the march showed no rain, but there were multiple storm systems moving through the state. It was overcast, but looked like the clouds were parting just in time for us. We made our way through the streets of downtown San Luis Obispo under a cloudy but dry sky.
But as the march progressed we started to feel some mist in the air, and towards the end of the route, the sky opened up on all of us and the raindrops came, big and fast. The street gutters were soon gushing but we all kept marching, even cheering the rain as it drenched us in our unprepared state. Rain is always welcome in a state suffering from four years of historic drought. We danced in the rain, and felt the blessing of the water. To me, it felt like a cleansing, clearing the feelings of disgust and despair that I have felt since the election.
I left the march soaking wet, but more optimistic about the future of my country than I had been in months. I am so grateful to all the organizers of all the marches throughout the world. I needed that march and the community that marched with me, both locally and elsewhere. The day was a reminder that there is so much good in this world. People of all colors, religions, genders, and sexual orientations came together in a spirit of love, peace, and freedom.
All told, millions of people all over the world came together peacefully to show that our voices matter and we will be heard. The majority of this country still believes in decency, kindness, and acceptance. We are still here. We still hold those values of inclusiveness and freedom near and dear to our hearts. We are not going to sit quietly and watch those values erode. This was day one of the resistance, and our hope was restored.
Image Credit: two21 CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/asdf/
Erin White is a mother, wife, political scientist, and nonprofit executive happily living in Blue California.