Carrying homemade signs, wearing self-knit hats and chanting inclusive slogans, thousands of San Joaquin Valley residents turned out for marches to coincide with the Women’s March in Washington D.C. over the weekend.
In Modesto, close to 1,000 people came together in a “unity gathering” and even more gathered in Fresno, Visalia and Oakhurst, where protesters marched along a major highway leading to Yosemite.
The valley communities were among more than 600 simultaneous marches held across the United States and around the world as women and men urged President Donald Trump to refrain from dismantling his predecessor’s legacy – especially when it concerns women’s rights and health care.
Modesto’s march was planned in less than a week by organizers who wanted to give valley residents a chance to show solidarity without having to travel to the Bay Area or Sacramento to protest. News spread largely through word of mouth and Facebook.
Hundreds upon hundreds arrived, many with handwritten signs touting feminist slogans and pink “pussyhats” – part of a grassroots knitting campaign to make caps with protruding “cat ears” in reference to Trump’s remarks about grabbing women that were captured on an “Access Hollywood” video.
“I am so touched by the turnout locally. This is exactly what we dreamed of, giving a voice to the people of Modesto,” said co-organizer Patty Hughes, from the Democratic Women’s Club of Stanislaus County.
Women and men gathered, many families bringing their school-age children, to take part in the peaceful protest. Signs ranged from issue-oriented messages such as “Climate science is real” and “All human beings are legal” to inspiring ones such as “Make America kind again” and “I am stronger than fear” to humorous ones such as “Resist bigly” and “You can’t comb over sexism.” American flags mingled with LGBT rainbow flags.
California State University, Stanislaus, master’s student Veronica Butler brought her two daughters, ages 5 and 10.
“It is important for them to see, as young women, the unity of women and to show that our voice matters,” she said. “My daughters are a living testament that things will get better as long as we all love each other.”
Modesto resident Jesse Roseman and his 7-year-old son Meyer Roseman were among the men and boys at the march. Meyer carried a self-drawn sign that read, “Build bridges, not walls.”
“I felt like it was important to exercise our rights, because if we don’t exercise them, they could be taken away,” the elder Roseman said.
In Fresno, Peace Fresno president Dan Yaseen estimated 2,000 people participated in the march and rally.
Connie Hines, 76, of Fresno said the march was personal.
“I have five granddaughters, and I also know people who depend on the Affordable Care Act,” she said. Hines said she also marched in protest against the possible repeal of funds for Planned Parenthood.
Hines said Trump offends her: “I think he’s vulgar.”
Yaseen said 36 organizations were represented at the rally, including Faith in the Valley, the Brown Berets, Trans-e-Motion and the Human Rights Coalition.
Mary Beth Carter, 50, and her two daughters held signs. She said she wants the marches to make the president realize more than half of the nation does not agree with his views.
Tyler Munoz of Fresno, who arrived with four of his friends, said he came to support his female friends.
“Women’s rights are human rights,” he said.
Ashleigh Panoo of The Fresno Bee contributed to this report.