You’d have thought it was State Fair season—the DART trains on Saturday departing from Mockingbird Station grew sardine-packed with people as they zoomed closer to City Hall. At 10 a.m., thousands met at 1500 Marilla to walk in solidarity with 2.5 million others across the country in honor of women’s rights in the age of President Donald J. Trump.
It’s not clear how many attended the Dallas rally, but, for scale, it was possible to stand at an intersection for half an hour and not see the end of the line of people. The march attracted men, women, and children, who grouped together and trotted 1.7 miles from City Hall into East Dallas, coming to a stop outside the Communications Workers of America building at the intersection of Bryan Street and Washington Avenue. The crowd grew so large that it was virtually impossible to hear the un-amplified speech from the organizer, freshman state Rep. Victoria Neave, a Democrat of Dallas.
Neave, like fellow organizers in Austin and Fort Worth and Denton, sought to align Dallas with the national Women’s March in Washington D.C., which attracted more than 500,000 Americans to the nation’s capital about 24 hours after Trump’s inauguration. Their message was clear: Women’s rights matter, and they won’t be forgotten.
“I think some folks were disappointed in the political process,” says Neave. “We don’t want anyone to be discouraged. There is power in numbers, and that’s what we’re going to show. Not everyone may agree with that we have to say, but we’re trying to keep this positive.”
Shortly after 10:30 a.m., the mass of people began moving east along Young Street, eventually catching Jackson and snaking toward Deep Ellum. They crossed under I-345, marching along Canton and onto Main and, finally, Washington. They chanted: “Love trumps hate” and “My body my choice” and “this is what democracy looks like.” They even called out to Trump: “We don’t want your tiny hands anywhere near our underpants!” A teenage girl held up a pink sign that read “THE FUTURE IS FEMALE.” A girl younger than 10 walked alongside her, hoisting her own sign: “MAKE AMERICA L<3VE.” Some mothers and fathers walked with babies in their arms. There was an oversized piñata of Trump’s head, the words “Stop!” and “Tweeting” Sharpied in on his cheek and upper lip.
At a glance, the crowd, made up of mostly women, some of whom had on knitted ‘pussyhats,’ appeared to be mostly white. Yet, once mingled among the masses, it was more than apparent that it had attracted people from all walks of life who were there to have their beliefs join a larger, unified whole. The march came less than a day after references to the LGBTQ community were scrubbed from whitehouse.gov, which the administration has said is necessary because they’re being digitally archived. And as the Dallas march carried on, references to maintaining those protections had not returned. Needless to say, shirts and signs supporting gay rights were everywhere you could see.
“I’m a feminist, have been since college,” said Crystal Obaseki, a young woman from Denton. “I really just wanted to be a part of this movement and peaceful protest that people have against a certain individual. And I’m really just walking for human rights. You know, civil rights. reproductive rights. So that’s why I’m here to today and wanted to be a part of this.”
The rights of women, women’s healthcare, and the protection of it, were the foremost issues of the march. Messages in support of it appeared on various signs and on t-shirts and echoed through the chants.
“I believe strongly that our country needs to stand up to this bullying,” said Dallas resident Robin Padayachee, 38. “And I’m here to represent the importance of women’s health, choice in reproductive healthcare, stand up for my two boys that I’m raising to be feminists and to protect healthcare for all.”
The diverse group included elderly marchers, like 75-year-old Eve Nemec, who drove in from Rowlett: “[I’m here] just in solidarity with everyone who seems disenfranchised, they feel disenfranchised. I’m not a Latino. I’m not LGBT. I’m just an elderly white Christian woman that feels for everybody else.”
After the rally ended, Neave opened up a phone bank for volunteers to call Texans to discuss their legislative hopes. The event, co-sponsored by Planned Parenthood, Texas Young Democrats, the Workers Defense Project, and Moms Demand Action, was a peaceful showing. The only two protesters were two young men who walked against the flow of the march along a nearby sidewalk, wearing red Make America Great Again hats.
“I see a lot of LGBT signs. And I don’t understand where that narrative is coming from because Trump is easily the most, like, progressive Republican candidate on LGBT issues that we’ve ever had,” said one of the men, 24-year-old Mark Toffler. “In fact, you look historically, he’s been on the side of LGBT since before Obama, since before Hillary. So, I don’t know. My open thoughts are just that this is a reflexive response, not a terrible amount of thought goes into their opposition and you can see that in the lack of nuance that goes into it.”
Toffler and his friend didn’t find much support in the messaging that came from the thousands of men, women, and children who they walked against. These thousands of Texans marched on the sunrise of a president who has flippantly discussed sexually assaulting women and pinned a name on his opponent, Hillary Clinton, that her supporters have now co-opted as their own: Nasty Woman. The thousands in Dallas, just as the half a million in Washington D.C. and the 2 million others scattered across the 673 other participating cities, displayed a unified, defiant message of their own to the country’s new leader: That the civil rights advances made under President Barack Obama won’t be taken away without a fight, that women will be heard and respected.
“I hope [this creates] a greater awareness of how we need to elevate the conversation in this country,” Padayachee said. “We need to protect those rights that many of us have taken for granted during the last administration.”