Local residents joined legions around the world in demonstrations during the Women’s March on Washington Saturday, January 21 in support of human rights for all, marching with protest signs in the streets of Washington, DC, St. Petersburg and standing silently together in Gulfport.
Among those boarding flights, buses and cars to join the hundreds of thousands who gathered in the nation’s capital was Gulfport resident Dena Lebowitz, who flew into the city at 10 a.m. Saturday with a friend from St. Petersburg and returned to Gulfport Sunday night.
“I went because I am very concerned about our democracy,” Lebowitz said after her return. “I believe in the Constitution and I believe in the Bill of Rights, and I believe they are both threatened by the new administration.”
Noting how the diverse crowd included people of all ages, genders and races, she said she was inspired by knowing so many had come together out of concern for the future of the country and efforts to reverse hard-won civil rights gains of the past.
“It was very peaceful but very spirited as well,” she said, adding that despite the huge crowds there were no problems or arrests. “It was very energizing and inspiring and gave me a lot of hope that we can continue to progress as a country and not turn the clock back.”
Other Gulfportians who traveled to Washington for the event included City Councilmember Yolanda Roman, who wore a sweatshirt that read “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” and posted extensively on Facebook about her experiences.
She marched in a Florida contingent whose sunny yellow “pussyhats” mingled with the iconic pink ones of others in the crowd.
Pat Lambert of St. Petersburg was among the estimated 20,000 who marched along the Sunshine City’s waterfront, in what has been called the largest demonstration in the city’s history. Lambert carried a bright pink sign identifying herself as a “granny” wanting respect, higher wages, choice and health care for herself and “my girls.”
“I wanted to show elected officials that women have the power to effect change,” she said afterwards. “They’d be wise to consider our rights in future legislation. Or else!”
In Gulfport about three dozen people stood in a circle in silence for an hour on the sidewalk in front of the Casino starting at 3 p.m. to express solidarity with the women’s march in Washington and bring attention to the need to safeguard the Earth for future generations.
“What we are standing for is our children and our grandchildren and the seven generations to come,” said event organizer Edie Daly of Gulfport, referring to Native American philosophy.
“We stood in silence for an hour and then we held hands and we talked about connection.”
Arlene Zaucha of Gulfport participated in both the St. Petersburg march and the Gulfport event with her partner while wearing a pink pussyhat.
“I absolutely loved being with all the women and other supporters on Saturday,” she said via email. “Our message is clear – we stand for a country that respects and embraces all. … Standing, marching, singing and chanting in St. Pete and then standing in silent vigil in Gulfport were both awesome experiences. It showed that we all have a role to play as our movement goes forward, whether it’s working on women’s right to health care and abortion, or environmental protection, or voting rights, or LGBT rights, or wealth inequality, or police misconduct.”