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Women’s March aims to draw thousands to downtown Spokane on Sunday

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 18, 2018

FILE - Thousands of protesters walk around the Grand Hotel in downtown Spokane, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. The Woman's March took place in many cities across the nation to protest the policies and proposals of the new president, Donald Trump. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
FILE - Thousands of protesters walk around the Grand Hotel in downtown Spokane, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. The Woman's March took place in many cities across the nation to protest the policies and proposals of the new president, Donald Trump. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

A year after the Women’s March brought an estimated 8,000 people to downtown Spokane following President Donald Trump’s inauguration, organizers expect a smaller, less politically charged affair this year.

Although with a list of speakers that includes congressional candidates Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the Republican incumbent, and her challenger, Democrat Lisa Brown, march organizer Cynthia Hamilton is hoping it can be a day of celebrating women – not shouting about politics.

“It’s supposed to be happy,” Hamilton said. “That should be the mood.”

The event, now called the Spokane Women’s Persistence March, is scheduled to begin at noon Sunday at Riverfront Park. Unlike last year, which saw multiple delays as thousands more than expected descended upon the center, Hamilton hopes this year will have a more rigid and defined schedule.

First is the rally at noon at the Red Wagon in Riverfront Park with a few local speakers and activists getting the energy going, followed by the march. Hamilton said it will follow the same route as this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Rally and March, which took a quick circle around two downtown city blocks and closed parts of Spokane Falls Boulevard, Bernard Street, Riverside Avenue and Washington Street.

As the march ends, participants will file into the convention center at 1 p.m., where Hamilton and crew have scheduled a list of speakers, including the candidates. Other speakers will include local leaders, Hamilton said, but she’s yet to have full confirmation.

“We’re all just talking about what it’s like to be women and the difficulties we have,” she said. “We’d like to keep it nonpolitical.”

Hamilton said Brown would be present to speak, while McMorris Rodgers appears via a prerecorded video.

Brown, who attended last year’s march and helped organize the first Take Back the Night march in the 1980s, said she was excited to be invited this year to speak – a first for her.

“This is just such an important time for our country, I think to celebrate our freedom, to march, to speak out, and the power that comes when women and people come together and say, ‘I don’t like what’s happening here,’ ” she said.

Hamilton, a prominent local activist, took the reins of coordinating this year’s march after a scheduling and organizational snafu almost killed the event. After putting up $1,000 of her own money, she said there was little money left for promotion, so she’s expecting less turnout than in 2017.

Still, she’s hoping to at least hit capacity in the convention center. And if people are up for it, to sign up to volunteer with local organizations that will be present.

“This year, we’re asking them for something,” she said of attendees. “We’re going to ask them to go get involved in the community in an even deeper way.”

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