Oakland women’s marchers demand end to bigotry, surge for equality
At the women’s march in Oakland, Calif., Jan. 19. | Marilyn Bechtel/PW

OAKLAND, Calif. – For the third year in a row, women’s marches brought together tens of thousands of women, men and children across northern California to insist on an end to hatred and bigotry, condemn the Trump administration’s extreme anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ attacks, and demand social and economic equality for women and an end to sexual harassment and domestic violence.

Besides Oakland, actions also took place in San Francisco, San Jose, Walnut Creek, Pleasanton and Sacramento.

Here, hosts were Black Women Organized for Political Action, the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center and Women’s March Oakland.

Home-made signs were everywhere: “Let’s get this reality TV show cancelled!” “Don’t you miss being able to wear a red hat without worrying someone behind you will think you’re a fascist?” “We are the leaders we have been waiting for!” “Women belong in all places where decisions are made!” And in Arabic and English, “Refugees are welcome here!”

As a crowd representative of this city’s diverse population gathered beside iconic Lake Merritt for a pre-march rally, U.S. Representative Barbara Lee told them, “I wish I could say the times we are living in are unprecedented. But as people of color, and as women around this country know, we have faced many of these challenges before, and more. We have overcome before, and we will again!”

Despite the Trump administration’s assault on immigrant, workers’ and LGBTQ rights and environmental protections, she said, “it’s the energy, determination and bravery of all of you and of women, that will save the soul of America.”

Lee highlighted the “historic” number of women elected to the U.S. Congress in November, noting that “the most diverse House of Representatives” in history now includes 113 women.

“Women across the U.S. know all too well what’s at stake,” she said. “If we don’t show up, our reproductive rights are on the chopping block, our kids go to underfunded schools taught by overworked teachers, and we will never see equal pay for equal work. And you are showing up, each and every day. Thank you for ‘staying woke’ constantly on all the issues we have to deal with to save the soul of this country.”

Lee then introduced Leili Herlinda Davari, San Francisco Bay Organizer for Bend the Arc Jewish Action, an organization of progressive Jewish people across the U.S. working to build a just society.

Davari, who describes herself as a Mexican-Iranian-Jewish woman, told the crowd that as an organizer for Bend the Arc, “my job is to support extraordinary leaders like you, who are building power together to fight back against the white nationalism coming directly from this administration.”

In the Women’s March movement, whose Unity Principles categorically denounce and reject all forms of bigotry and hate, Davari said, it’s not necessary to agree on all issues but it is essential to focus on the “existential danger” posted by white supremacy and white nationalism. “To be clear,” she said, “there can be no progressive intersectional movement that includes anti-Semitism of any kind.”

Newly inaugurated Oakland City Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas, the Council’s first Filipina member, referred to small earthquakes felt in the city in recent days as she introduced fellow new Councilmember Sheng Thao, the first Hmong American city councilmember in California.

At the women’s march in Oakland, Calif., Jan. 19. | Marilyn Bechtel/PW

“Do you feel the ground shaking?” Bas said. “We had an earthquake here because women are taking office!”

As women leaders, she said, “we believe in people-power governments with real community participation – we are going to be making decisions with you, not for you.”

Bas emphasized the area’s urgent need for affordable housing: “Every single person in our community has the right to shelter. We all know that more working moms can’t pay the rent, more working moms are living in their cars or in the streets, and that is inhumane … We are committing ourselves to making sure that women, and all our neighbors, have the basics of shelter and a place to call home.”

Following the rally, participants marched to Oakland’s City Hall, where a Call to Action Alley featured local performers, organizations staffed booths to share information, and local and women-owned businesses displayed their wares. Organizers said over 15,000 participated in the day’s events.


CONTRIBUTOR

Marilyn Bechtel
Marilyn Bechtel

Marilyn Bechtel writes for the People’s World from the San Francisco Bay Area. She joined the PW staff in 1986, and currently participates as a volunteer.

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