By Alexander Bissell and Joel Williams
Thousands trudged through pouring rain in downtown San Luis Obispo recently to take a stand against the country’s new president and to show solidarity for women’s rights — in one of the largest marches in the history of the town.
The SLO Women’s March was done in conjunction with the main protest in Washington, D.C., and “sister” demonstrations nationwide, including West Coast cities from San Francisco to San Diego. Similar protests also cropped up in cities around the globe, including London, Berlin, Paris, Sydney, Nairobi and Cape Town.
The movement comes the day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, which occurred Jan. 20, and marks an unprecedented time in history when an American inauguration has been protested so highly.
Marchers say they are in opposition to the values they think Trump represents and fear certain rights could be under threat from his presidency.
Protestors began trickling into Mitchell Park at dawn in preparation for the march that began right before 11 a.m.
Around 6,000 people were expected to attend the event, according to the official website for the event, but organizers of the event estimated numbers near 10,000.
“When you see people get together like this… I mean people are concerned, and it’s great to see it, so that’s a ray of optimism that so many people are involved,” said Eric Michielssen, who recently ran for San Luis Obispo County supervisor and was one of the marchers.
Adults and children carried signs and enthusiastically chanted slogans as they made the less than one-mile loop in the rain before returning back to the park for live music and entertainment.
Many marched for their own reasons in addition to women’s rights.
“I am here to support human rights in all of their forms,” said Gita Kolluru, a biology professor at Cal Poly.
While many marchers took issue with their new president on a number of topics, there was still an overwhelming sense of optimism in the crowd as they looked toward the next four years.
One of the few vocal Trump supporters at the march was Michael Johnson. He stood on the edge of the march wearing a sequined stars and stripes vest with blue pants and held a tall sign displaying a checklist saying “God, USA, Trump.”
“I was hoping to engage in some conversations,” Johnson said about the protestors. “they have some adversarial sentiment, but for the most part they’ve ignored me or been pretty nice.”
Dawn Addis, one of the Co-founders of the San Luis Obispo Women’s March, is hopeful for the future
“This is just the first day, the first step,” Addis said. “We need people to keep their energy up, we need to keep it growing, we need to keep the work alive.”