Petaluma Women’s March stresses inclusiveness

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More than 1,000 people participated Saturday in the Petaluma Women’s March, the first time the city hosted the event that started nationally two years ago as a backlash to President Donald Trump’s election.

Chanting slogans including “immigrants are welcome here,” and “Donald Trump has got to go,” the marchers walked down Kentucky Street and Petaluma Boulevard in a procession of 1,200 to 1,300 people, according to Petaluma police estimates. They gathered before the march at Walnut Park to listen as speakers touched on a variety of social issues, including the treatment of women, rights for LGBTQ people and protections for undocumented immigrants.

“We do not need the hostility that Trump has engendered in this country,” said Mayor Teresa Barrett, who was elected in November. “Let’s keep building community.”

Many held signs with messages such as “Equality for all,” “The future is Latina,” and “I am woman, hear me roar,” a nod to an anthem of the 1970s women’s rights movement. Many men and children joined a largely female crowd, and several participants wore pink hats with “pussycat” ears.

Petaluma’s march, one of many “sister marches” around the country, was organized by Indivisible Petaluma. It came as the national Women’s March movement faced accusations of anti-Semitism and exclusivity. Indivisible, which includes Jewish members and members of other faiths, ethnicities and sexual orientations, put out a statement addressing the controversy that beset the national organization.

“We recognize that controversy around anti-Semitism at the national level arose after the first march in 2017 and are aware that these issues around prejudice, racism and stereotypes are again in the news,” the statement said. “Although we are not making a judgment or assumption that the National March is anti-Semitic, we want to emphasize that we will let that group speak for themselves. The spirit and mission of the Women’s March Petaluma is to lift up the voices of ALL women, and we are working independently to create an event that is our own.”

The spirit of inclusiveness was a common theme addressed by many of the speakers that included Petaluma elected officials like Barrett, Councilwoman D’Lynda Fischer, and school board members Mady Cloud, Joanna Paun and Caitlin Quinn. Other speakers included activists Zahyra Garcia, Ana Flores, Dianna Grayer, Hanan Huneidi, Mia Zimman and Dmitra Smith.

“My black life matters. All black lives matter,” said Grayer, who is also a playwright. “Women, we are all important. We are diverse. We are a rainbow of beautiful colors.”

The Petaluma event also struck a decidedly youthful tone with several teenage speakers, including Cash Martinez, Deja Morrow and Lucía Garay. They spoke about the difficulties and discrimination faced in the Petaluma school system as people of color or non-heterosexual.

“It is time for our schools to deliver on the promise to protect all students,” said Martinez, a member of the Casa Grande High School Feminist Club. “To my fellow teens, this is your moment to demand that your voice is heard. Demand that they listen.”

After the speeches, the students in the crowd took up the official banner and led the procession through downtown Petaluma, on a route that police had cleared of traffic, to finish back at Walnut Park.

(Contact Matt Brown at matt.brown@arguscourier.com.)

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