Protests in pink: 15,000 join Women’s March in Vancouver
Twice as many protesters as predicted showed up in Vancouver Saturday to march in solidarity with the Women's March on Washington D.C. after the Inauguration of Donald Trump.
Wearing knitted pink hats and sensible shoes, thousands of protestors pushed strollers, held musical instruments and waved placards and signs as they worked their way to Jack Poole Plaza in downtown Vancouver on a misty Jan. 21 morning.
The marchers were of all ages and backgrounds and their reasons for being at this rapidly swelling protest were as varied as they were.
It was around 10 am, and the sea of pink was marching in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington, held to protest the Jan. 20 inauguration of Republican President Donald Trump. One of 670 sister marches in 75 countries around the globe, the Vancouver turnout was originally anticipated to draw 5,000 marchers.
The reality exceeded expectations, with an estimated 15,000 joining the ranks of protestors. Organizer Samantha Monckton said that planning for the march only started a couple of weeks ago. Monckton found out about it through Facebook, then realized there was a lack of organizers to pull the march together. “Within days, four of us came together and made this happen,” Monckton said.
For many who attended the Saturday march, it was the chance to show solidarity for those facing discrimination south of the border as a result of the new Trump administration, as well as was a chance to stand up to similar threats to civil rights here in Canada.
Although billed as a women’s march, the focus was on human rights and taking a stand against all forms of discrimination. “Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights. Everybody deserves to feel safe in their environment, no matter what colour, race or gender they are,” said young marcher Devynn Butterworth.
Robin Rivers, an American immigrant who attended the march with her 11-year-old daughter, expressed concern that what she was seeing within Canada paralleled what had happened in the United States. “I look at the Conservative leadership race right now and I think that it is our duty as Canadians to ensure that what is happening in the US does not continue and infiltrate into Canada,” Rivers said.
“We’re seeing Kevin O’Leary and Kellie Leitch go out and profess the Trump ideology as the one that they are going to push with the Conservative leadership. I absolutely will not stand for that kind of rhetoric and ideology in the country that I have made my home and that I love,” she added.
Marcher Gary Rajalingam, a social worker who grew up partly in Texas, notes that some of the divisive rhetoric of the last year’s drawn-out American election race has already reached Canada.
“Look at the messages that were being sent around in Richmond and Abbotsford recently about prejudice towards immigrants and xenophobia towards minorities,” Rajalingam said.
“Canada is one of the most progressive countries in the world but we have intolerance too.” (During the march, unknown vandals plastered neo-Nazi posters at a bus stop in New Westminster. City police are investigating.)
Shortly after 11 am, the crowd started shuffling down Canada Place towards the U.S. Consulate General in Vancouver. Onlookers and marchers cheered and chanted along the route, dancing to upbeat tuba music that added to the almost carnival atmosphere.
The organizers of the Women’s March on Washington had taken care to emphasize that their event was not anti-Trump but rather supported human rights. However, as the march approached Trump International Hotel & Tower on West Georgia Street, the pace slowed to a halt.
Spontaneous booing and cries of “Take it down!” erupted from the crowd. A young boy stood on top of his father’s shoulders and led a chant of “Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go!” Security keenly watched the crowds from the tower and many protesters decorated the construction fence around the building with their signs.
For many people in attendance, Saturday’s march was more than just a chance to express anger and frustration about the new American administration — it was an opportunity to feel hope for the future. “It’s time for us to pick up the mantle,” said marcher Sabrina Furminger. “This is the beginning of a great movement. It’s important for Trump to know that if he does take away women’s rights, there will be backlash.”
The passion on display this weekend showed that threats to civil and human rights and rule of law will not be taken lightly. And, as the rhetoric on both sides of the border becomes darker and more divisive, many might feel the need to start knitting more pink hats.