One year after the inaugural Women’s March on Denver, thousands of people are expected to gather downtown for the anniversary March—the Women’s March on Colorado—on Saturday. But this year, things will be a little different.
“The mission remains the same in that we’re still marching for rights of all marginalized groups,” says Jessica Rogers, one of the organizers. “But after a year, and especially in the last couple months, you can really see a turning of the tide with the activist groups and progressive groups pushing back against the administration.
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“There’s still that need for solidarity, but I think people have their feet under them again.”
On January 21, 2017, more than 100,000 people took over downtown Denver for the inaugural March on Denver, a ‘sister march’ to the March on Washington in response to the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump. Organizers hadn’t anticipated such an enormous turnout, resulting in a colorful bottleneck in Civic Center Park as people in costume and bearing signs waited for their turn to march.
To avoid such issues this year, the one-mile route will begin at the City and County Building on Bannock Street and end back at Civic Center Park, where there will again be speakers and performers at the Greek Auditorium.
Organizers decided not to have elected officials speak this year, despite the fact that the Colorado governor’s race is gaining steam. Instead, crowds will hear from speakers including immigrant activist Jeanette Vizguerra; transgender woman, veteran, and attorney Emma Shinn; and Karen Roberts Grissom, organizer for the March for Black Women Denver.
“The theme of this year’s march is Hear My Truth,” explains Rogers, who currently lives in West Arvada where she grew up. “We wanted to have individuals speak who have a narrative around the topics that are going to be up for legislation this year.”
Last year, Rogers organized the March alongside Karen Hinkel and Cheetah McClellan. One of the most memorable moments for her was addressing the thousands of people assembled in Civic Center Park’s amphitheater, despite being terrified of public speaking. She asked people to raise their hand if they had experienced sexual assault as defined by the U.S. Department of Health: any nonconsensual, forced or coerced sexual action or behavior, including rape, attempted rape, sexual harassment, and molestation.
“If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault as defined by the United States Government, please raise your hand,” said Rogers from the stage. Hands went up from about 70 percent of the crowd.
“It was really inspiring for me personally, and I hope for other people in the crowd, to just look around and see what a social epidemic sexual assault is in our society,” she says. Though she describes the overall energy of the March as “amazing and uplifting,” she was so overwhelmed by that experience she cried afterward.
The ‘Raise Your Hand’ action has since been embraced as a #MeToo symbol following a conversation between Rogers and Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement. It will happen at many of the estimated 350 Women’s Marches taking place in the U.S. on January 20, as well as around another 50 marches scheduled internationally.
When Rogers, Hinkel, and McClellan organized the 2017 March, the process was an organic one, growing from the momentum around the fear, sadness, and anger felt by some in response to the man elected to be the 45th President of the United States. After the March’s success, a board was quickly established to ensure its continuation. Hinkel and McClellan are now focusing on other projects, so this year’s March has three new board members: Tish Beauford, Lisa Cutter, and Jolie Brawner.
All played key roles in last year’s March. Beauford helped organize the group of 3,000 Coloradans who attended the March on Washington. Both Cutter and Brawner worked with the March on Colorado team last year: Cutter as public relations advisor and Brawner handling day-of logistics and volunteer management.
This year, the board is working with local activists and the progressive movement Indivisible to host seven public meetings across Colorado on January 21st, the day after the March. As detailed on the March on Colorado website, the meetings will offer advice and information on anything from becoming a precinct captain, open commissioner seats, and pertinent pieces of legislation coming up in Colorado’s current session.
As of press time, about 10,700 people have RSVP’d on Facebook for this year’s March. Though Rogers doesn’t expect the same numbers as last year, she believes the Women’s March on Colorado 2018 will be both a celebration of the movement’s successes thus far and a reminder that there is still much work to be done.
“After a year of activism work, we’ve really seen how much our voices can change the tide,” she says. “I think it’s less of a reaction this time and more of a continued motivation and inspiration.”
If you go
When: Saturday, January 20, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; March begins at 9:30 a.m.; rally takes place around noon.
Where: The March will start at the City and County Building on Bannock Street and end back at Civic Center Park. See the route here.
Parking and Transportation: Parking will be limited. Organizers recommend taking public transportation or carpooling. Shuttles will ferry people from Colorado Springs and Boulder into Denver, while RTD will add extra train cars to the E, H, and D lines that Saturday.
Bring: Organizers recommend bringing water and snacks and wearing layers. Backpacks are discouraged for security reasons.