Thousands attend the 2018 Women’s March in downtown San Luis Obispo, spreading awareness of a multitude of issues.
Photos by Alexander Bissell / Cuestonian
Lindsay Darbyshire, News Editor
Rachel Barnes, Managing Editor
Over two thousand people filled the spaces everywhere on Saturday, climbing into trees and on top of electrical boxes to get better views of the speakers on stage. Mission Plaza in downtown San Luis Obispo was overflowing with passionate people on the anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
“We must not be defeated,” their voices chanted in unison.
The 2018 Women’s March in SLO showcased the concerns of the American people who felt like their voices weren’t being heard.
The official theme of SLO’s rally was “Hear Our Vote: Voices of Resistance.” This year, the event adopted a rally style, which was different from the mobile march that took place the year before. This rally was just one of an estimated 653 marches with approximately 4 million attendees that went on in the United States, according to the Washington Post.
Dawn Addis, who worked with other organizers to set the roots for the Women’s March in SLO, said that upon working to host the event, she realized how deeply her values mirrored that of the 2017 Women’s March in Washington D.C.
“I wanted to be part of creating a positive resistance to what I knew this new administration would bring,” Addis said. “It was time to share my voice, and I hoped I would find others for whom positive change would resonate.”
This year’s event was the second annual march of the United States. The rallies were first hosted in January of last year just a day after President Trump’s inauguration, when men and women took to the streets to protest oppression in a nonviolent way and raise awareness for a multitude of issues.
“Respect existence or expect resistance.”
“Make America think again.”
“Girls just want to have fundamental rights.”
This year, the “Hear Our Vote” theme centers on voting, which, according to Addis, is an act of resistance itself in today’s political climate.
Many speakers took the stage to present inspiration to the emotionally charged crowd.
Elmy Bermejo, a woman who served in Obama’s administration for seven years, seemed to capture the mood of the crowd in saying, “This is no time to be on the sidelines.”
In fact, many groups came out to share their points of view. This included the many gay rights activists, whose pride flags flowed in the light afternoon breeze, and the many shirts and flyers saying, “I stand with Planned Parenthood.”
Dozens of tents lined the streets for the rally, including activists for Planned Parenthood, Cal Poly Safer, which is a student support resource addressing sexual assault, Central Coast Tranz, which is a support group for transgender citizens, Prevent Cruelty California, which is an animal rights activist group, and Atheists United SLO.
As far as the planning and labor it takes to host one of these events, Addis said that all of the organizers work together to make the rally happen.
“There are many facets [to putting on the march] including messaging, logistics, working across agencies, funding, and most importantly, core focus,” Addis said. “One of the most important aspect to our planning is that we work by consensus. This is a better way to work because we have to listen to one another, reconsider what’s important, and ultimately all of us together are better than one.”
Addis hopes to see a people inspired and engaged when attending the SLO Women’s March. This year’s focus was on listening to the “voices of those who have been underserved, under-heard, and under attack,” according to Addis.
“Democracy is multi-faceted,” Addis said. “It encompasses speaking our minds, sharing our hearts, supporting candidates we believe in, running for office, and showing up to the ballot box. There are so many people out there that want a clean environment and an equitable society. The future is ours for the taking.”
A family of three generations of women’s rights activists were at today’s rally. Frances Fioravanti and her mother, Donna Fioravanti, live in San Luis Obispo, while Donna Fioravanti’s mother, Cathy VanOrman, is a resident of Atascadero.
The trio attended the event to protest President Trump’s position in the White House and show that they don’t agree with the direction in which he’s moving the country, which they feel includes a racist, homophobic, and anti-feminist direction.
“I just never thought at this point we’d have to be in the position to carry on the work of the women who came before us and fought so hard for women’s rights,” said Donna Fioravanti. “You’d [think] that battle was won, and it’s not. And I think that’s the most shocking thing for me.”
Donna Fioravanti works for an organization that provides healthcare for low income individuals. The organization was providing comprehensive sexual education to high schools, but the Trump administration has cut federal spending in that area, so the teaching has come to a halt, according to Fioravanti.
“The Trump administration is shifting sexual health education in the high schools to abstinence,” Fioravanti said. “[They’re] leaving people who may not be using evidence based information to teach kids about sexual health. They’re cutting Title X, which provides free reproductive health care for low income women,”
The trio advocate for women’s healthcare, equal pay, and equal representation for women. They encourage future generations of women to persist and stand up for their rights.
“I think we’re kind of at the point where we should get loud and kind of make a stink about this,” Frances Fioravanti said.
The March will definitely take place in SLO next year, Addis said. Until then, she encourages future generations of women to take time to be surprised by their own accomplishments and surround themselves with people they look up to.
“What happens in your own relationships should reflect what you believe is just and right,” Addis said. “Check in with yourself. Trust your intuition. Whenever you have an intimate relationship be sure that it is one that lifts you up and helps you to be everything you can. You do deserve a life that you love and that you are happy in. Take chances, especially on yourself.”