As they made their way Saturday to the War Memorial Plaza, Celeste Perilla turned to her daughter and asked her why she thought they were going to the Baltimore Women’s March.
“Well,” said 5-year-old Lenore, “MLK marched and he was trying to make things better.”
Women took to the streets of downtown Baltimore, as well as across the nation and world, to try to make things better for women, for minorities, for sexual assault survivors and for immigrants in Maryland and across the country.
While there was no official count of the crowd, march organizer Charly Carter put the number at well over the 5,000 who attended last year’s event at North Charles and 33rd streets.
The march came on the one-year anniversary of the inauguration of President Donald Trump, who was the target of many of the marchers Saturday.
Many women said they came to Baltimore’s rally to build on the momentum of last year’s historic Women’s March on Washington, when hundreds of thousands of people converged on the nation’s capital to condemn Trump’s fledgling presidency.
“Going to the rally in D.C. last year was about expressing our utter dismay about what was about to happen to our nation,” said rally organizer Odette Ramos, of Baltimore Women United. “This year it’s like, all right, we need to do the work together.”
Saturday’s event centered on driving up voter turnout in the 2018 Maryland primary and general elections, empowering the city’s women and focusing on electing candidates who support women’s rights. Marchers held signs proclaiming that the future is female.
Speakers included state Del. Adrienne Jones, speaker pro tem of Maryland’s House of Delegates, and state Sen. Joan Carter Conway.
“We want to celebrate these women leaders, and encourage more women to run and join them in the General Assembly,” Ramos said.
Mayor Catherine Pugh stood in front of City Hall to address the crowd, and thanked the many women who serve as leaders in her administration.
“We have a responsibility when we are in these positions to lift up other women,” Pugh said. “Let’s get our women out to vote.”
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby encouraged the “warrior women” assembled downtown to fight for better schools, safer communities and fairer wages.
“Ladies, we know our place,” said Mosby, a Democrat up for re-election this year. “Our place is in City Hall. Our place is in the state’s attorney’s office. Our place is in the State House. Our place will soon be in the White House.”
Democrats from Maryland’s all-male congressional delegation were also present, and slammed Trump from the podium. The march was held during the first day of a partial government shutdown, after Republicans and Democrats in the Senate came to a standoff on immigration.
Trump tweeted about the various Women’s Marches taking place Saturday afternoon across the country.
“Beautiful weather all over our great country, a perfect day for all Women to March,” he said. “Get out there now to celebrate the historic milestones and unprecedented economic success and wealth creation that has taken place over the last 12 months. Lowest female unemployment in 18 years!”
Brian Griffiths, co-founder of conservative media outlet Red Maryland, said the country is in many ways better off now than before Trump was elected.
“You can’t argue with the economy. That rising tide lifts all boats, including those of women,” he said. “The women’s marches are putting forth a progressive philosophy that has already been proven to be ineffective.”
Sixth-grader Jasmine Flowers, 12, said she wanted to come to the Women’s March to fight for everyone’s right to vote. When she’s old enough to enter the polling booths, she said, she’ll be looking to vote for a candidate who is a “strong leader” and lets people from different countries into the United States. And if that candidate is a woman, Flowers said with a smile, “that would be amazing.”
Michele Guyton said she is preparing to file her candidacy for the Maryland House of Delegates this week. The Maryland state school board member said she never thought she’d run for office until Trump became president.
Guyton met three other first-time female candidates at the Baltimore Women’s March, and the group is planning a coffee date to share tips.
“I’m going into this a little fearful about things I don’t understand,” she said. “But all of these women are stepping up to help show me the ropes.”
While many signs last year drew from Hillary Clinton’s concession speech after the 2016 election and statement that “women's rights are human rights,” many in this year’s crowd made reference to the growing “Me Too” movement, which aims to show the pervasive nature of sexual assault and harassment.
During the 2016 election, a leaked “Access Hollywood” tape revealed Trump bragging in vulgar terms about groping women.
Angela D. Wharton runs Phynyx Ministries, an organization that focuses on healing for female sexual assault survivors.
“Our president has been known to have disrespected women countless times, which adds fuel to my fire and my fight for women survivors,” Wharton said. “Survivors’ lives matter.”
Gabriela Sotomayor, a 25-year-old Baltimore resident, said many family members in Puerto Rico are still suffering the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria. She hopes all people, not just Latinas, remember that her family is American, too.
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“If you’re not considering all women’s voices,” Sotomayor said, “then why are you here?”