Braving 50-degree temperatures and short bouts of icy rain, 15,000 people hit the streets of downtown Tucson Saturday morning for the local version of the Women’s March on Washington.
Despite the name, a good portion of the crowd was also made up of men, and children of all ages were bundled up to experience the Women’s March in Tucson and Tucson Solidarity Rally with their families and friends.
“This is one moment in time. Let us celebrate this moment,” Sheli Weis said to the crowd of thousands gathered in Armory Park shortly after 10 a.m. “This day is not about a revolution, but rather an evolution of humanity.”
Weis is one of 150 volunteers who helped to plan the event, organized to give Tucsonans a way to stand in solidarity with those marching in Washington to protect the rights, safety, health and happiness of every person.
“Be involved in the process,” Weis said, urging attendees to keep apprised of the news, watch the actions of elected officials and learn about laws and bills, both locally and nationally.
With his daughter at the march in Washington, his sister at the Denver march and his wife by his side, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild took to the stage a short time later, telling the crowd, “I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”
Rothschild said the city has taken the position for years that it won’t participate in mass deportations and will continue to stand firm on the issue.
“If in the near future, someone seeks to impose legislation nationally, the city will join with others to oppose those measures,” he said, drawing loud cheers .
Quoting an article from a political website, The Hill, Rothschild outlined some of the cuts announced to the federal budget, including privatizing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for Humanities.
When he mentioned that the White House’s website no longer had any reference to climate change, and that huge sections about civil rights, disabilities and LGBTQ rights had been removed, the crowd momentarily erupted into angry cries.
“We need to be united, because the people pushing this budget are counting on us to be divided,” he said, adding that the programs that are threatened are ones that make America great.
Holding a sign that said “Girls just want to have fundamental rights,” Naomi McIsaac came to the rally with a group of friends and family, many with children in tow.
“I came to stand in solidarity with the women in the Washington march,” McIsaac, 35, said. “I’m a firm believer that women’s rights are humans’ rights.”
Her son was bundled up in a stroller at her side, and, not to be left out, he had a sign of his own: “Another face of a Planned Parenthood.”
McIsaac said that she’d attended a sign-making party the weekend before with about 10 other people, all of whom were equally fired up about the event.
Hundreds of other signs were visible in the crowd, with messages such as, “Make America Think Again” and “I am woman, hear me roar.”
Michael Johnson, 51, one the men at the event, held a sign that read “This is what feminism looks like.” He said he came alone, but was happy to see so many other men had the same idea .
“It’s so important to stand together, now more than ever,” Johnson said.
“It’s not just about women’s rights, it’s about rights for everyone. Going forward, we all need to support one another, and that’s what today is about.”
By the time the march kicked off at 11:30 a.m., organizers estimated the crowd size at 5,000 people. But attendees continued to arrive well after the march began, many heading straight to the Joel D. Valdez Library Plaza for the post-march solidarity rally.
Desert Voices, Tucson’s LGBTQ chorus, welcomed people into the plaza with a song, before a second lineup of speakers, including Congressman Raúl Grijalva, took the stage.
A handful of other local politicians and several organizations, including Planned Parenthood, YWCA Southern Arizona, The Islamic Center of Tucson and La Coalición de Derechos Humanos, made up the remaining speakers at the pre- and post-march rallies, all touching on the importance of unity and respect.
The Tucson Police Department estimated that by the end of the event, 15,000 people had filled the plaza. There were no incidents and no arrests, said department spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Bay.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety estimated there were 20,000 people at a similar rally in Phoenix and said the event was peaceful.
In Green Valley, another rally drew more than 500 people, said resident Beth Dingman.
“We are all so incredibly proud of Tucson — people of every age, race, gender and religion came out today and made their voice heard,” co-organizer Shauna Anderson said after the Tucson event.
“We were blessed with a peaceful demonstration of our values and our solidarity,” she said
Hours after the marchers left Armory Park, participants were still pouring into the library plaza, even as others had started to leave.
A father and his pre-teen daughter walked against the crowd, making their way back to their car.
“Dad, that was so great,” the girl said, the excitement in her voice unmistakable.
He looked down at her with a smile.
“Well, I’m glad you enjoyed it,” he said, taking her hand as they crossed the street.
Caitlin Schmidt at email@example.com or 573-4191. Twitter: @caitlinschmidt