Two thousand protesters gathered on Market Street in San Francisco for the October 17 Women’s March. Across the country, citizens in cities such as Los Angeles and Washington D.C. also participated in marches. Attendees flooded the streets, stopping traffic to make their voices heard.
The San Francisco Women’s March was organized in protest of Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the US Supreme Court, and also aimed to convince citizens to vote in the 2020 national election. Both a voting registration table and a ballot drop-off box were stationed at the beginning of the march. Protesters held up signs picturing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg or brought homemade ones with messages such as “Ruth Sent Us” or “My Body My Choice.”
Gemma Shabel, a sophomore in Berkeley International High School (BIHS), agreed that this topic was an important one to protest.
“I think that these issues really affect everybody, whether they realize it or not,” she said. Shabel encouraged those who are old enough to vote to register and cast their ballots. “[Most BHS students] can’t vote, because we’re too young. But I think that a lot of people can, and aren’t taking that opportunity. So speaking out about it as much as possible is really important to try to get those people who can vote to vote,” she said.
The most famous Women’s Marches have generally occurred in January, a tradition that started in 2017 after the 2016 election that gave Republicans control of Congress and the White House. However, this protest was planned in September after the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. According to Sophia Andary, a march organizer with Women’s March San Francisco, the Trump Administration’s nomination of Barrett was a foreseen disappointment.
“We knew that they were going to try to appoint somebody to the court that is anti women’s choice, that is an anti LGBTQ, that is anti people of color and women of color,” Andary said. Because of this, organizers began planning the march as soon as possible. “We knew that we needed to be ready to possibly mobilize,” she explained.
Protesters were animated as they marched, chanting phrases such as “Amy Barrett has got to go” and “Black Lives Matter.” Each had their own reasons for coming, yet all were unified as the group made its way down Market Street.
One protestor, Nana, stated that she was not only marching with, but also for her three-year-old daughter. “She’s not only a female, but she’s also a black child, a black girl. I think her future depends on this, on all of us, fighting and demanding for equality, equity, justice and peace and love,” she said.
Children and senior citizens moved as one, and their chants could be heard throughout the streets. Some protesters were dressed as characters from The Handmaid’s Tale, and one individual wore a large inflatable “baby Trump” costume. While a few bystanders shook their heads or even yelled angrily at the passing march, protesters remained unfazed and united.
A group of three teenage girls were optimistic about the march’s impact. “We hope [the march] catches some attention so we are more respected in America, because right now, that’s really not happening,” said one of the teens, who asked to remain anonymous. The others nodded in agreement. “Getting together as a collective voice will hopefully make more of an impact,” she said.
Due to COVID-19, organizers set policies in place to keep marchers safe. Although the rallies and speeches are largely what the Women’s March is famous for, COVID-19 restrictions prevented any in-person speaking from happening before or after the march. Instead, there was a livestream of the protest and pre-recorded ‘calls to action’ from each of the organizing groups. A few hundred people attended this portion. Although some protests during the pandemic have had little to no COVID-19 protection systems, the organizers for this march required masks for everyone attending and enforced social distancing with a group of 30 or more volunteer “peace ambassadors.”
This march was a final call to action for all citizens to vote and do what they can. With the election only weeks away, Shabel encouraged people to spread awareness. “If you’re able to, definitely use your voice and do everything in your capability to try to help these issues come to the government’s attention,” she said.