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March on Monument Calls for Unity, Energy 

click to enlarge Over 1,000 people attended the March on Monument Saturday.

Scott Elmquist

Over 1,000 people attended the March on Monument Saturday.

More than a thousand people turned out for a rally and march down Monument Avenue on Saturday, expressing concern about women's rights under Donald Trump's term as president.

Mary Field came out in support of her four granddaughters and the young women she lives near in Union Hill, she said -- with next weekend’s presidential inauguration at the top of her mind.

“They’re all going to be impacted by the decisions that are made the next four years,” she said. “We’ve got to do whatever we can to support these young women. … We can’t just curl up and cry.”

The Equal Rights Amendment and a host of progressive causes animated the protesters, who started at the Lee Circle.

“It’s time to put women in the U.S. Constitution,” read one large sign.

Judy Holloway of Church Hill was at her first march with her daughter Jennifer and granddaughter Nina. “I’m here to speak for the dignity of women, so that women’s voices may be heard and respected,” she said. “And for equal pay.”

Speakers from advocacy organizations and religious groups called for unity and civic engagement while the crowd gathered. The city closed traffic on Monument Avenue between Allen Street and the Boulevard for a few hours, with attendees walking the westbound lane.

“Show me what democracy looks like,” grand marshal Rebecca Wooden Keel yelled.

“This is what democracy looks like,” the crowd called back.

Nora Ogunleye said she participated in protests after the Nov. 8 election. This march struck her as a more family-oriented version, and she said she appreciated the diversity of the participants.

“And it’s important to have conversations with, not only people our age,” Ogunleve said, “but older generations and younger kids who are going to grow up in this new world.”

Organizer Beth Fuchs said they were inspired by the national Women’s March on Washington, set for Jan. 21, and wanted an opportunity to channel local support into action.

“It’s to infuse a lot of this energy that we’re seeing out in the community right now,” she said. “The drive is to convene at this moment in time where people are focused and interested in a nonpolitical and nonpartisan way.”

Local advocacy groups set up tables to collect names and contact information: Equality Virginia, the Virginia chapters of the ACLU and Sierra Club, Virginia Interfaith Power and Light, Richmond Lesbian-Feminists and others.

The march stopped near the Boulevard for speeches by newly elected state Sen. Jennifer McClellan and new Congressman Donald McEachin, fresh from attending inaugural celebrations of Mayor Levar Stoney.

McClellan invoked the work of previous generations of women and activists as a model for the current generation. “Hate cannot defeat hate. Only love can,” she says. “It’s clear what we do now: We fight like we’ve never fought before.”

McEachin said he would remind his colleagues in Washington what makes America great. “It’s about diversity,” he says. “It’s about love.”

Paul and Janine Daniels, who walked from their Museum District house, said it was their first march. “Sometimes it’s nice to know that other people agree,” says Paul. “That we’re not sitting in our apartment by ourselves ...”

“…sulking,” Janine finished, laughing. They said they wanted to attend the march in Washington, but can’t make it.

click to enlarge The beginning of the March on Monument at Lee Circle. - JACKIE KRUSZEWSKI
  • Jackie Kruszewski
  • The beginning of the March on Monument at Lee Circle.

Another organizer, Free Egunfemi, says she didn’t initially plan to come. “I’m not a marcher, I’m not a protester, because I’m more of the mind that it’s better to support what you love than bash what you hate,” she says.

“But I was very encouraged by the idea that this was a gathering of minds -- a rally to energize and galvanize support from many different communities along the lines of what they have in common.”

Mary Hall of Goochland County wears a pink vest with the words Clinic Escort Volunteer. “I think it’s important in times of uncertainty for there to be a cohesive, welcoming voice,” she said.

She was one of about eight escorts outside a local clinic earlier in the day, walking people past anti-abortion protesters before coming to the march.

“Well, first we went to Bandito’s and had a couple of shots,” Hall said, “and then we came here.”

Organizers say they encouraged positive signs. Most of the attendees seemed to comply, but some subtle -- and a few not so subtle -- anti-Trump signs appeared.

“Orange was my favorite color,” reads one. Another has a picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin holding a cat with Trump-like hair. “Putin’s Pussy,” it reads.

Richmond police officers reported no incidents or trouble with the march, at one point filming a Facebook live session of it.

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