NORTHAMPTON — Millions of protesters took to the streets across the country on Saturday for the Women’s March — a protest to denounce the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
For Northampton resident Liana Eldora, 26, the decision to join the march and rally in her city was less of a choice, and more of a calling.
“I need to be here,” Eldora said, wrapped in a pink scarf. “Because I am a woman and this is my right.”
Eldora was one of an estimated 3,000 people who converged downtown Saturday. The Hampshire County protest was inspired by the Women’s March on Washington, a march in the same spirit that was deemed the largest inaugural protest in United States history on Saturday.
Countless marches were held in cities and towns across the country — and the globe. Locally, thousands of people attended another Women’s March in Greenfield.
In Northampton, the march began at Sheldon Field. Protesters wore pink hats and toted signs that displayed messages like “Climate Change is Real,” “Can’t Hold Us Down” and simply, “IMPEACH.” The majority of attendees were women, though many men and children joined the protest.
Police blocked off a portion of Main Street as a sea of protesters marched toward Pulaski Park. Protesters chanted and sang songs during the 30-minute trek. Supporters lined the streets and cheered for the protesters as they passed by, holding signs of their own. Before the march, the Unitarian Society hosted a live stream of marches around the country.
In a cheetah print coat, leather gloves a “Nasty Woman” T-shirt, Easthampton resident Sara Gumaer, 26, held a sign with an Angela Davis quote: “I am no longer accepting the things I can not change, I am changing the things I can not accept.”
She was joined by her mother, Diane Gumaer, 62, of Sunderland, who wore a white apron she decorated with resistance slogans, a Pinterest-inspired take on sandwich board-style signs. The women marched with friends Barbara Marrell, 66, of Sunderland, and Lynda Kamik, 69, of Northampton.
“We’re here for positive energy and solidarity,” Diane Gumaer said. Kamik added the women are focused on what they can do moving forward.
“We’re here to get rid of our anger,” Marrell said.
Soon afterward, the marchers were off, making their way toward the heart of downtown. Small children carried signs and stuffed animals. Several teens held their heads together to fit into an iPhone camera frame. They smiled, recording themselves as they headed toward Pulaski Park.
Rathana Thann attended the march with his friends Peter Chham and Leakhena Chham. The teens all live in Amherst.
“We’re here to support civil rights in general,” Thann said. “Today is about decency and equality.”
Leakhena Chham added she was protesting to resist judgment of her body.Women take center stage
In Women’s March fashion, the protest ended with a rally at Pulaski Park led by Myra Lam, of the American Friends Service Committee. Marchers filed into the park as three teenage girls led the crowd in a spontaneous rendition of “This Land is Your Land.” The singers, Hero Hendrick Baker, Saphira Payne and Lila Gaffney, are students at the Hartsbrook School in Hadley.
Mary Ford, who was elected the first woman mayor of Northampton in 1992, gave a speech highlighting the importance of organization and activism in the days ahead.
“Do not dismiss our power,” Ford said. “You are going to see and feel our power.”
Ford emphasized that people must “get organized” by choosing specific causes to fight for — like health care, climate change and immigrant rights — and join local groups centered around those causes.
“Prepare. Decide for yourself with your group in advance what you’re going to do if there is a threat to your cause,” Ford said. “And the rest of us need to have your backs.”
Dianna Sierra, of the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, spoke against capitalism, racism and anti-immigrant sentiments in her speech.
“Trumpism will come to Northampton if we do not protect the most vulnerable people — workers and immigrants,” Sierra said. “We must stop Trump and any politicans from serparating our families.”
Sierra discussed the “Sanctuary in the Streets” movement her organization launched, and talked about wage theft and retaliation among Northampton businesses.
“Winning is possible. History demonstrates, when ordinary people like you and me, the oppressed, organize, we can tackle institutions responsible for inequality in our society,” Sierra said.‘Demagogic frontman’
As climate activist Marty Nathan took the stage, she marveled at the size of the crowd that filled Pulaski Park.
“I thought there would be 20 people here,” Nathan said. “Could I have been wronger?”
Nathan warned she believes Trump’s presidency is “potentially catastrophic” because it is shaping up to be an “anti-democratic for-profit regime.” From plundering resources like fossil fuels to slashing Medicaid and privatizing Medicare, Nathan warned Trump’s practices will hurt the disabled, poor, working poor and middle-class Americans.
Nathan said Trump suffers from severe narcissistic personality disorder and is a pathological liar. She added that he is the “demagogic frontman” for the Koch brothers and ExxonMobil. She warned that climate change is happening swiftly, despite Trump’s dismissal of its legitimacy.
Despite dire circumstances and Trump’s hateful rhetoric, Nathan encouraged the crowd to move forward in a positive way.
“Our movement should, and can, be one of love and respect,” Nathan said. “Coupled with courage, creativity and clarity.”
Lifetime activist Frances Crowe, 97, shared her wisdom with the crowd. The Northampton resident was inspired to be an activist in 1945 after civilian populations were bombed in Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.
“All we have is one another. Don’t try to do it alone,” Crowe said.
First, Crowe encouraged people to shop at local businesses, like longtime neighborhood grocery store Serio’s, to keep money circulating through the Northampton economy. She urged rally-goers to listen to news organization Democracy Now! every day, and visit Forbes Library for documentary screenings.
Crowe’s daughter joined her on stage and handed out signs that bore slogans including “Stay Strong,” “Stay Woke,” “Stay True” and “Stay in Love.”
Crowe beamed as she looked out at the crowd, perched on her walker. “There’s something about Northampton, you know. I think the women are strong here,” Crowe said. “We are really going to take care of one another here.”
Stephanie Murray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.