The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday January 18th

North Carolina activists take on the Women's March on Washington

Among more than half a million participants in the event, UNC students and community members turned out to support an array of causes ranging from reproductive rights to immigration reform.

Elinor Walker, a UNC sophomore, said she attended to protest the inauguration of President Donald Trump and advocate for civil rights.

"... (I’m) marching in solidarity for women and female-identifying people, as well as anyone who cares about women’s rights,” she said.

Duncan Yetman, vice president of the UNC Young Democrats, said he marched to take a national stand in solidarity with other attendees.

“Abortion, cutting funding for Planned Parenthood, appointing a conservative to the Supreme Court — all those things are super important,” he said.

Longtime North Carolina resident Whitney McMahan said she drove to the district particularly to protest policies such as House Bill 2.

"(North Carolina) was the most progressive southern state, and we are running backwards as fast as we can,” she said. “I don’t want all the -isms, all the fear to become the norm.”

Leading up to the event, some activists criticized the march for disregarding the diversity of attendees.

“The crowd was less intersectional than I had hoped, but the organizers did a great job of making the speakers really inclusive,” said Molly Jordan, a UNC sophomore who watched the rally from the front rows.

Jordan said she was impressed by the diversity of speakers, which included the mothers of the movement and Alicia Keys.

“It was insane because if I had seen any of those speakers individually, I would have been blown away,” she said.

Still, Jordan said she thought the rally might have included too many speakers — as audience members at times seemed to lose interest.

For UNC senior Savannah Wooten, the age diversity at the march was impressive.

“One of the things that touched me was a family spanning multiple generations: a grandmother, a mother and her baby,” Wooten said.

While some protesters carried posters insulting President Donald Trump, the march’s mood was far more positive than the inaugural protests the day before.

“This isn’t some rowdy riot, this is passionate people fighting for fundamental human rights that we believe in,” said UNC sophomore Sonia Vasconcellos.

Peter Greiner, an Iowa Trump supporter watching the march, said it was chaotic.

“Nobody’s hurt us today,” he said. “We’ve had some words thrown, but nobody’s hurt us.”

March organizers originally expected 200,000 participants, but that number more than doubled Saturday. The large crowd created safety concerns and prompted a route change.

As protesters passed the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Ave., the hotel and its guests were greeted by chants of “no Trump, no KKK, no racist USA.”

Yetman said walking past the Trump hotel with a group of other participants delivered a powerful statement of unity.

“We all don’t know what’s going to happen, but it was so comforting to see that many people make the same statement,” he said. “It’s a feeling of like we’re okay and we have each other, which I feel is so, so helpful for some people. I don’t think we’re completely over the loss in November.”

Despite polarization, which is so often a topic of discussion, Yetman said the march focused on other values.

“It was hope; it was a sense of community; it was sense of promise for what we have as group to organize and send a message,” he said.

McMahan, who said she missed the feminist movement of the ’60s, said she was glad to reclaim the opportunity to become politically active.

“I’m 52 years old, I never thought that I would become a Birkenstock-wearing hippie, and here I am,” she said. “I feel like this is my movement.”

Corey Risinger, Sam Killenberg and Caroline Metzler contributed reporting.


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