The area was flooded with people of all kinds, some dressed in their brightest pink, others carrying signs or waving flags. They had come from all walks of life and gathered in cities around the country and even the world. United together with one goal in mind: equality.
It was Jan 21st and people had taken to the streets to show the world what they believed, and according to the Kansas City Star more than 5,000 of those people had gathered in Kansas City.
Though initially used as a way to respond to the current political climate Crouse says that the Women’s March “wasn’t organized to be ‘anti’ anything. It was used to create unity and acceptance.”
Crouse went on to say “the world around me feels a little more unified and safer because I know I’m not alone in feeling fearful of a Trump presidency. It’s given me motivation to let my voice be heard. I hope other people will not feel as alone or hopeless because of the March. There is still good in the world. There is still acceptance and love in the world.”
Those at the Kansas City event, along with the others around the world used their collective voice to show the new president their commitment not only to women’s rights in America but to the rights of all people around the globe.
Speakers address various social issues including religious freedom, immigration, equal pay, reproductive rights, disabled rights, and LGBTQ rights. One after another they took to the podium; some sharing emotional and deeply personal stories and others advocating equal rights for all.
First up was Kansas City Mayor, Sly James. “We need to stop worrying about Donald Trump’s character and realize that this is about our character,” he said before concluding his speech with a saying he learned in the Marine Corp, “adapt, improvise, and overcome.”
Several other speakers reiterated this idea of unity, including Rabbi Doug Alpert who said, “If Muslims are ever required to register in this country as Jewish people were once forced to do then meet Muslim Rabbi Doug Alpert.” His words were met with one of the day’s biggest cheers.
Several students from West attended the march, among them was Senior Savanah Crouse. This was not the first time she participated in such an event, as she also went to the Bernie Sanders rally in Kansas City. Crouse said she left both events, “feeling hopeful.”
“The atmosphere was so empowering,” she said. “You felt this sense of hope and love and understanding for all.”
“The Women’s March to me was to support equality for everyone, not just women,” said Junior Maddie Soderstrom. “It was called the Women’s March but it was to support gay rights, women’s rights, human rights in general.” Soderstrom was unable to attend the march due to a conflict with district choir but she was happy to see so many “standing up for equal rights for everyone.”
The Women’s March packed Washington Square Park with people and signs. Though called a march the event took place more like a rally, complete with various speakers ready to fill the two hours ahead of them.
“I just think that it’s important to stand up for what you believe in because the way that we got where we are in our rights as women is because women before us marched,” said junior Sophie Roach. “Obviously women have a lot of equal rights, but I feel like women don’t have a lot of respect and so that’s why I marched.”
Roach also participated in a protest at KCI against the recent executive order issued by the President banning the “entry of more than 50,000 refugees in the fiscal year 2017.”
Roach said also that the march allowed her to realize the importance of action as opposed to thought. “Before I would have been like, ‘oh yeah women’s rights, gay rights, that’s cool’ but not I want to go and actually protest and march.”
“Marches aren’t pointless,” Roach said, “and protesting and standing up for what you believe in isn’t pointless. Even though there was only like 400 of us at the [KCI] protest and however many at the March it still makes a difference. People are still talking about the Women’s March, people still care. Marching and protesting is how we got where we are. I just think it’s really important that if you believe in something to fight for it.”
Junior Astrid Sandfeldt attended the Women’s March with Roach. Sandfeldt who is a foreign exchange student from Sweden is currently staying with the Roach family.
“I don’t even know how to explain it,” Sandfeldt said, “it was this atmosphere of, ‘we’re gonna have change’ and ‘we’re gonna make it’ everyone was just so determined.”
Being from Sweden Sandfeldt was less influenced by “the whole Trump thing,” but later decided to attend.
“I think it’s important that women refugees, whatever religion, are all treated equally, and I feel like it’s fun to do something rather than just thinking about it. It was a big thing all over the country and around the world. I’m from Sweden and in Sweden they had a march too, so it’s all over the place.”
Sandfeldt also described some differences between America and Sweden regarding issues like equal rights. “I feel like in Sweden it’s more of a thing that you talk about in everyday life and it’s an issue that you talk about it a lot, or at least me with my friends. But here it’s not something you discuss. I live in a city so maybe that’s the difference, but sometimes I feel like we have come further,” she said.
“Here I feel like it’s a lot of, ‘I have to stay home with the kids’ or you feel like you have to get married or have kids, that’s kind of a goal, Sandfeldt said, “not that that’s wrong, I want to get married too. But in Sweden I feel like it’s more of if you want to get married fine but you don’t have to, and here it’s more like a goal for most people, so that’s just different.”
Those speaking at the march used their words to inspire the crowd before them.
“Jolie Justus was my favorite speaker,” said Crouse. “She spoke about the LGBTQIA community and what we can do to ensure no one’s rights are taken away, and also Taylor Hirth. Hearing her story about her experience of sexual assault really spoke to me.”
Sandfeldt was also impacted by Taylor Hirth’s story. “It was just so, so emotional,” she said. Hirth, a victim of sexual assault, used her time on stage to share about the night she was raped while also calling for stronger laws against rape. “and it was just showing that, no it’s not because we dress in a certain way,” Sandfeldt added. “It’s because these people did this to her, she was just in her apartment sleeping, she didn’t ask for it and that just shows that, no it’s not our fault.”
Roach shares Sandfeldt’s sentiment saying also that, “[Hirth] didn’t talk about, ‘oh I got raped and it was the most terrible experience ever’ she talked about how, ‘yeah I got raped and it really sucked and it was unfortunate, but I’m really strong and I got through it.’”
For Sandfeldt the biggest takeaways from the Women’s March were “The speakers, first of all, it was just really brave, and they said a bunch of good things. Then it would also be that everyone was so nice, and it was not awkward.”
“I loved when people stand with their signs and they were so proud,” Sandfeldt said. “I was like, this is so cool I want to be like that when I grow up. I just thought it was so cool and you got more of an understanding that people aren’t bad, people are good. A lot of times you see the bad things and so it’s nice to see good things and happiness.”
“We stand together,” said Sandfeldt, “we are a unified people. It’s not just one person who wants equal rights it’s a lot of people all over the world who want equality, we are all together and it’s impressive.”
Though a change in policy may be a long term goal of those who organized the march. Roach pointed out that the event itself was a way “just to show little girls that everyone can be accepted.”
“If you are a women you can be strong, if you’re a lesbian women you can be strong, if you’re a black women you can be strong, if you’re a Muslim women, if you’re a gay man,” Roach said. “No matter who you are there are always going to be people here who accept you even if the most powerful person in the world is trying to make you feel like you aren’t accepted all those people who marched are letting them know that they are.