Thousands of women and men filled the streets of downtown Raleigh on Saturday, the day after Donald Trump was sworn in as the nation’s 45th president. The march was one of hundreds in cities around the country, showing solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington.
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Organizers for Raleigh event estimated the crowd at 17,000, but there was no official tally. A spokesman for the Raleigh Police Department said the department does not give estimates of crowd sizes. In Charlotte, the police estimated that at least 10,000 had turned out for the march there. Thousands also marched in Asheville, Greensboro and Wilmington.
In Raleigh, the women and their supporters – black, white, Latina, Asian, Indian, gay, straight, rich and poor, young and old – converged on downtown from all over the Triangle, gathering at City Plaza. By mid-morning, the streets and sidewalks were nearly logjammed as people marched down Fayetteville and Martin streets toward a rally in Moore Square, chanting and carrying homemade signs along the way.
“Women’s Rights Are Human Rights” read one sign. “Love Trumps Hate” another sign insisted.” “Now You’ve Pissed Off Grandma” and “Kindness Matters” read two more. A woman pushed a stroller with a sign posted in front of her baby that read, “My Mommy Is A Nasty Woman.” Still others held aloft signs demanding equitable health care for all Americans.
Annalee Harkins, 27, of Chapel Hill, exhorted the crowd on.
“I think it’s important to take care of each other and fight back,” Harkins said. “A lot of times we are only for ourselves, or for our families. But now I think it’s important to be for our communities.”
Some of the marchers chanted slogans that are now part of the national soundscape such as “Love trumps hate.” A group of African-American women chanted “We go high! We go high,” referencing Michelle Obama’s “When they go low, we go high,” speech from the Democratic National Convention.
Other chants spoke to homegrown issues in North Carolina, like the legislation, House Bill 2 or “Bathroom Law.”
“Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! HB2 has got to go!” a group chanted.
Shar Outen of Raleigh works with the National Institutes of Health. She said she used to love watching Trump’s reality show, “The Celebrity Apprentice,” and now she wonders if his divisive campaign rhetoric “was real.”
Outen said Trump’s ideas are “dangerous.” She was not heartened by his inauguration speech and called it “horrible.”
“He’s acting like he’s still a candidate by not telling us what he’s going to do, like with the Affordable Care Act,” she said. “Put your ideas out there. It’s like he wants to surprise us. Tell us what you’re going to do.”
Outen is also worried about Trump’s choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who has sharply criticized the EPA in the past.
“His administration tells you a lot about the person,” said Outen, who noted that the EPA is “right down the street” from where she works.
“That person, his appointment, wants to do away with the EPA,” she said.
Allison Mahaley is president of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State in Durham and Orange counties. Mahaley bristled at the thought of Trump’s choice for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, the former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and an activist for school choice who supports charter schools and vouchers.
“This country was founded on the principle of freedom of religion,” Mahaley said. “Government money – taxpayer dollars – should not be spent on private, religious schools. She wants to privatize everything and give taxpayer dollars to religious schools that indoctrinates children.”
Friends, Subha Sellers, 33, of Durham and Mary Lobo, 30, of Chapel Hill attended the event with their infant daughters strapped onto their chests with baby carriers. The two moms stood together underneath an oak tree in Moore Square.
Sellers, while her 3-month-old daughter Layla slept, held up a sign that pictured a Muslim woman wearing an American flag that had been fashioned into a hijab. Lobo, while holding her 6-month old daughter Monica, held up a sign that pictured a Latina woman with a red rose in her hair. “We The People,” both sides read underneath the pictures.
Sellers and Lobo both said they came to the march for their daughters. They wanted to attend the Washington march but decided to protest in Raleigh because their husbands had to work.
“The night of the election I felt for the first time like I did not recognize this country,” said Sellers, who is Indian and was born in the United States. “I’ve been here my whole life. But I felt like I was not wanted, and I felt like that has got to change, for her,” she added, nodding at her daughter.
Lobo’s husband is Indian. She said that as a white woman, she was not aware of the racism he was being subjected to until after the election.
“Donald Trump has authenticated this horrible sense that people can treat other races and genders differently from themselves,” she said. “I mean, someone told my husband to go back to Pakistan, and he’s from Virginia. It infuriates me.”
McClatchy News Network and The Associated Press contributed to this report.