Another organizer, Susan Hester, said Raleigh originally rejected the proposal to close streets between City Plaza and Moore Square. It normally requires demonstrations to be planned 120 days in advance.
“At first they said, to be fair, they couldn’t give it to us,” Hester said. “As you see today, we got it, because the masses could not be kept on the sidewalks.”
Organizers viewed the march as an opportunity to mobilize new volunteers and generate support across the state for their issues.
“We don’t want this to be a one-off event,” organizer Anna Grant said. “We wanted this to be part of building a community here at home, where we’re going to do the work.”
Several political officials attended, like U.S. Rep. David Price, D-N.C.
Though it was called a women’s march, the crowd included people of all genders, races and sexual orientations — fathers holding their daughters’ hands, transgender individuals demonstrating against House Bill 2 and undocumented immigrants fighting to remain in the country.
“This is a women’s march, and I’m glad it’s called a women’s march,” said Tom Earnhardt, who volunteered at the march with his wife. “But it’s something every North Carolinian should be a part of.”
Sarah Moncelle, another organizer, said that while the idea for the march arose after the presidential election, the march was not a protest against its results.
“I don’t know that I would characterize it as an anti-Trump protest,” Moncelle said. “(The march) is representative of a lot of social issues that center around how they affect women and what women can do.”
Melissa Cox, a librarian at the North Carolina School of Science and Math, held a sign that was shaped like an apple. It read “Save Public Schools” and featured a worm labeled “DeVos” crawling out of the side.
“I would like to see the achievement gap reduced, and make sure everyone is getting a high quality education at the level where they need it,” Cox said.
Many UNC students, like junior Lauren Eaves, marched in Raleigh.
“Women deserve better — women of all colors, backgrounds and religions,” said Eaves, who is Campus Y co-president. “When you have someone who’s been elected as the leader of the free world... who reinforces casual misogyny and sexism, you’ve got to put your body somewhere where your body is going to be seen and your voice is going to be heard.”
Demonstrators advocated for reproductive rights, affordable health care and equal pay for women. Others broader messages included “coexist,” “equal means equal” and “the future is female”.
“I’ve been fighting for women’s rights for over 50 years,” said Rosemary Lynch, a volunteer from Raleigh. “I can’t believe we are still doing this.”