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Friday, April 3, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Activist weekend: Women’s March, plus anti-war and anti-abortion rallies, planned for Saturday in Spokane

UPDATED: Fri., Jan. 17, 2020

Participants head south on Stevens Street during last year’s Women’s March on Jan. 19, 2019, in Spokane. This year’s march is scheduled for Saturday. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Participants head south on Stevens Street during last year’s Women’s March on Jan. 19, 2019, in Spokane. This year’s march is scheduled for Saturday. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

For the fourth year in a row, thousands of people are expected to gather in Spokane Saturday for the Women’s March, coinciding with hundreds of marches around the nation.

“It’s about women’s rights and equality and all of humanity,” Spokane march organizer Murphy Sullivan said. “And this is about getting out there and voting. This is the 100th year since women gained suffrage.”

Organizers hope to see a high turnout after declining attendance around the country since 2017, the year around 8,000 people marched through downtown Spokane. An estimated 6,000 people attended in 2018, and half as many marched in 2019.

“We’re really expecting a big crowd. We hope there’s a big crowd,” Sullivan said. “Especially with what’s going on in our political climate. It’s a big voting year.”

This year’s march will be the first time attendees at the Spokane rally hear from speakers outdoors rather than at the Spokane Convention Center before the march. And it’s the first year with snow in the forecast — less than an inch, according to National Weather Service forecasts, with a high near 35.

Sullivan said the decision to start the march outdoors, at the Red Wagon in Riverfront Park at 12:30 p.m., was part of an effort to donate more money from fundraising to charities, instead of spending thousand of dollars on venue costs. Any money left over after event costs are paid is donated, Sullivan said.

Speakers will include Marleny Carmona, a Mexican-American WSU medical student raised in rural Washington; Ping Ping, Spokane Chinese Association president and Spokane Falls Community College sociology professor; Amanda Mead, a public school librarian, activist and member of the LGBTQ community; and Bethany Montgomery, a Seattle-based, African-American poet and artist.

“We’re trying to represent different demographics,” Sullivan said. “It’s about uplifting young women to say, ‘You can do this.’ ”

Representatives from Planned Parenthood will gather people who want to walk in the march with their organization at the Riverfront Park Clocktower at noon, before joining the larger group.

As for counter-protesters, Sullivan said she doesn’t expect to see any increase in conflict from years past.

After dates for the Women’s March were announced, Walk for Life Northwest said it would hold a rally the same day, Sullivan said. It’s the first time anti-abortion activists have held a formal event the same day as the march, she said.

“We’re not quite sure what the agenda is, but we’re not that concerned,” Sullivan said. “We have thousands of people that come out to support equal rights for all of humanity.”

She added,“I feel like they’re doing the anti-Women’s March.”

Walk for Life Northwest, which could not be reached for comment, will begin its rally at 11 a.m. and a march at noon, according to a Facebook event posting.

Activist Nicolette Ocheltree said she plans to counter-protest that rally with her group, Spokane United.

Organizers in Idaho also planned an anti-abortion march in Coeur d’Alene, as well as in Boise, at about the same time as a Women’s March in Sandpoint.

At the same time Walk for Life organizers are scheduled to begin gathering at the Rotary Fountain in Riverfront Park, Democratic Congressional candidate Chris Armitage will host an anti-war rally.

The rally, Armitage said, will be about encouraging city and state leaders to proactively divest from companies that profit from unnecessary wars.

“We can’t give up on this fight,” said Armitage, who is asking leaders to take a pledge from CODEPINK, a women-led anti-war group. “People are going to be out anyway. That way we have the opportunity to talk to folks at the Women’s March.”

Armitage, noting he is against criminalizing abortion, said he hopes to find common ground with anti-abortion activists, because “we want to save lives.” He said he and volunteers from his campaign will later join the Women’s March.

Sullivan said she’s looking forward to seeing more people turn out to vote after this year’s march.

“The strides that women have made and the strides for equality have been phenomenal in the last three years,” said Sullivan, pointing to the Me Too movement and a new wave of female elected leaders. “Look at the beautiful things that have come out of this turmoil in our country. There have been a lot of positive things that have happened.”

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