A year after more than 1 million people rallied at women’s marches worldwide with a message of female empowerment and protest against President Donald Trump, activists will return to the streets this weekend in hopes of converting anger and enthusiasm into political force.
The 2017 rally in Washington, D.C., and hundreds of similar marches created solidarity for those denouncing Trump’s views on abortion, immigration, LGBT rights and more. Since then, a wave of women decided to run for elected office and the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct became a cultural phenomenon.
“We made a lot of noise,” said Elaine Wynn, an organizer. “But now how do we translate that noise into something concrete or fulfilling?”
Along with hundreds of gatherings Saturday and Sunday across the U.S. and in places such as Beijing, Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Nairobi, Kenya, a rally Sunday in Las Vegas will launch an effort to register 1 million voters and target swing states in the midterm elections.
Linda Sarsour, one of the four organizers of last year’s Washington march, said Las Vegas was targeted for a major rally because it’s a strategic swing state that gave Hillary Clinton a narrow win in the presidential election and will have one of the most competitive Senate races in 2018. Democrats believe they have a good chance of winning the seat held by embattled Republican Sen. Dean Heller and weakening the GOP’s hold on the chamber.
Wynn, president of the Nevada State Board of Education and former wife of casino mogul Steve Wynn, said women make up half of the state’s congressional delegation, including Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, who became the first Latina in the U.S. Senate in 2016. Nevada also has one of the highest percentages of female state lawmakers in the country, and women are mayors of its three largest cities.
Organizers say Nevada is also a microcosm of larger national issues like immigration, as well as the debate over gun control after the deadliest mass shooting in modern history.
Following the October massacre, the rally will be held at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ stadium 10 miles southeast of the famous Strip where a gunman opened fire onto a concert, killing 58 people.
Authorities have kept details confidential about security at the 40,000-seat stadium.
Minnie Wood, a nurse practitioner who participated in the 2017 gathering in Las Vegas, said she was left with a sense of solidarity and “this feeling of almost a quickening, this resistance brewing.”
It also laid the groundwork for the recent movement that brought a reckoning for powerful men accused of sexual misconduct, Sarsour said.
“I think when women see visible women’s leadership, bold and fierce, going up against a very racist, sexist, misogynist administration, it gives you a different level of courage that you may not have felt you had,” she said.
Many women inspired by last year’s massive marches have sought higher office, such as Mindi Messmer, a 54-year-old environmental scientist from Rye, New Hampshire.
Messmer was a state legislator when she attended the 2017 march in her state capital of Portsmouth. She’s now a candidate for the seat held by retiring U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, a fellow Democrat.
“Last year was really empowering and uplifting at a time when we women feel we are being assaulted on a daily basis,” she said.
Other women running for Congress include newcomer Chrissy Houlahan, who hopes to unseat a Republican in suburban Philadelphia, and Sara Jacobs, a former aide to Barack Obama, seeking the Southern California seat held by retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa.
“There are women all over the country deciding to be candidates,” said veteran feminist Kathy Bonk, who worked in the 1970s for the women’s advocacy group NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Democratic officeholders pledging to elect more progressive candidates in swing states will be among the speakers in Las Vegas. Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood also will address the crowd.
Last year’s march in Washington sparked debate over inclusion, with some transgender minority women complaining that the event seemed designed for white women born female. Some anti-abortion activists said the event did not welcome them.
The organizers for the Sunday rally are striving for greater inclusion this year, with Latina and transgender female speakers, said Carmen Perez, another co-chair of the 2017 Washington march. Women in the U.S. illegally, sex workers and those formerly incarcerated are welcome, she said.
Eman Hassaballa Aly, a 38-year-old digital communications manager and activist, said after last year’s gathering in the Chicago area, she saw women become more politically active, including two Muslim women she knows who are running for office – one for state Senate and one for Congress.
“It was incredible that all these people came together,” said Aly, who addressed the 2017 Chicago event. “We realized how powerful this thing could be.”
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