In the days after the 2016 presidential election, a woman in Santa Fe with little experience in rabble-rousing decided she needed to do something.
“It was like everything we hoped and believed in was suddenly shaken,” Lindsay Conover told me then.
Other women in other parts of the country felt the same way, concerned that the rights and welfare fought for by their mothers and grandmothers were now at risk of being lost. From discussions across kitchen tables and work desks and social media, the “something” germinated into the Women’s March the day after the inauguration in January 2017.
The march became the largest single-day demonstration in U.S. history, with millions of pink-hatted, poster-holding women (and men) filling the streets in Washington, D.C., and hundreds of cities around the world where sister marches were held – including in Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Fort Sumner, Deming and Santa Fe, the latter sister march organized by Conover.
The march, which began in snowfall and ended in sunshine, drew between 10,000 and 12,000 people.
I was one of them.
“I think many of us felt like we are all kind of waking up and saying, oh my gosh, we’ve got to use our voices to effect change,” Conover said then. “Maybe we didn’t realize until now that we had to – or we could.”
We’ve come a long way since we donned those pink hats. We have shown that women do effect change, run for office and win, present a formidable voting bloc, reclaim our time, persist.
Since the first Women’s March, three more have been held, one each January, smaller in turnout but not in enthusiasm and purposes, organizers say.
Then on Sept. 18, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg died.
Even before the women’s rights icon was laid to rest, the president and Republican-led Senate were reversing their 2016 stand on not replacing a justice in an election year and instead rushing through the confirmation of a replacement who likely puts many of those rights at risk and ignores Ginsburg’s dying wish to wait until after a new president is installed to replace her.
“That caused a deep cry,” said Samia Assed, another New Mexico woman there at the birth of the Women’s March. “That’s what made us realize that we couldn’t wait until January for another march.”
Late last month, board members of the Women’s March organization – which includes Assed, who is also chairwoman of the New Mexico Women’s March – announced that another march would be held, but this time before the election, in Washington, D.C., and in other cities around the country.
“On Saturday, October 17, women will be marching everywhere across the country to send an unmistakable message about the fierce opposition to Trump and his agenda, including his attempt to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat,” the announcement said. “If Donald Trump is allowed to appoint another Supreme Court Justice, Roe v. Wade will be overturned. It’s that simple. This is everything that the Women’s March has warned about since day one of Trump’s presidency. This is the moment we’ve been preparing for.”
Preparing for this march in a few weeks has been a challenge – especially in the midst of pandemic and a country that has grown even more polarized since 2016.
“It’s an ugly time for protesting, a different environment,” Assed said. “But we felt the need was too great not to have a physical march. It’s not just women’s rights that are at stake, but the Affordable Care Act, LGBTQ rights, Social Security. Democracy needs people to rise up and work for it.”
Plans are still being worked out, but Assed said the Women’s March in Albuquerque is expected to be more of a rally, starting at 1 p.m. Saturday on Civic Plaza. Guest speakers will include U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland and New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, both Democrats.
Albuquerque Mutual Aid, a coalition of organizations and individuals working for at-risk communities during the pandemic, will be on hand to collect donations of food and supplies.
Because of COVID-19, participants will be required to wear masks, and organizers will have 10,000 masks available, along with hand sanitizers. The rally will be one hour long, and no portable toilets will be available, Assed said.
The theme of the march this time is “Dissent, Persist, Vote,” and while the impetus is on the vacant Supreme Court seat it’s that last word, “Vote,” that is also a strong focus.
“We really need to remind ourselves that we are the power and this is still a democracy,” Assed said. “Women win elections.”
Maybe, as Conover said nearly four years ago, we didn’t realize until now that we had to – or we could.
UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column.
Albuquerque: 1 p.m. Saturday, Civic Plaza. Masks, social distancing required. Participants are asked to bring nonperishable food and supplies for at-risk communities.
Santa Fe: 11 a.m. Saturday, Bataan Memorial, 400 Don Gaspar.
Farmington: 11 a.m. Saturday, Farmington Museum, 3041 E. Main.
More information: At womensmarch.com and Facebook. New Mexico Women’s March is also on Facebook. Includes info on how to participate virtually.