Women’s march overwhelms Montpelier

Women's March

Thousands rallied in Montpelier for the march, held in concert with hundreds of other events around the country. Photo by Emily Greenberg/VTDigger

A sea of homemade political placards and pink knitted hats flooded Montpelier Saturday as demonstrators overwhelmed the capital to protest the policies of President Donald Trump.

The local Women’s March drew an estimated crowd of between 15,000 and 20,000 to Montpelier, according to police, making it possibly the largest demonstration ever in the capital.

More than 500,000 protested in Washington, DC at a national event, and there were similar protests to Vermont attended by tens of thousands in cities across the country and globe.

As Vermonters descended on Montpelier from across the state, traffic backed up for miles, including on Interstate 89, where police closed several exits, including the entrances to Montpelier from both the north and south.

Crowds began gathering at Montpelier High School in the morning, eventually spilling out onto the street. They congregated at the Statehouse, the crowd so large it stretched across the street to the front of the Department of Motor Vehicles and clogged all of State Street, which was closed.

Homemade posters and placards mingled with cloth banners and intricate costumes.

Women's March

Students from Johnson State College at the Women’s March in Montpelier. Photo by Elizabeth Hewitt/VTDigger

Emily Peterson, 20, and Katherine Hirack, 18, classmates at Johnson State College, drove to the capital to support women’s rights.

“I think it’s really important to be involved, and history, herstory I should say, is happening right before our eyes,” Peterson said.

“We’ve progressed so far, there’s no way we can go back now,” Hirack said. She held a hand-painted sign on cardboard that read “I will not go quietly back into the 1950s.”

The march traveled a short distance — roughly two blocks — to the steps of the Statehouse.

Sue Grigg, 75, of Middlebury, stood on the sidewalk on State Street with her daughter and granddaughter. Throngs of marchers surged by, chanting “Love not hate, makes America great” — a play on Trump’s campaign slogan.

Grigg’s granddaughter, Emma Olmstead, 17, of East Montpelier, was also with two of her friends. It was the first time the three high school juniors had been at a protest. All three said they worry about the status of women.

“I see it in everyday lives where things aren’t equal, and there needs to be a change,” one said.

Griggs said she believes that women in the country are faring “better than before.” But she fears that women’s rights could be in peril with the changing political winds in Washington.

“I don’t want to see it slip back,” she said. “I want it to carry forward and I see a time where that’s in danger.”

Women's March

Nicole Nelson, of the band Dwight and Nicole, performs at the Women’s March in Montpelier. Photo by Emily Greenberg/VTDigger

As the tides of marchers arrived on the Statehouse lawn, the band Dwight and Nicole performed from the steps. Muslim Girls Making Change, slam poetry team of four Burlington teenagers, elicited a chorus of snaps, applause and cheers as they performed poems that touched on the experience of wearing a hijab, police brutality and more.

Former Gov. Madeleine Kunin addressed the crowd, saying that the march called for many initiatives, including respect, equal pay, health care and more. In the next four years, she said, “We will be heard.”

In the wake of the election, some people are “discouraged and puzzled,” Kunin said. “The pendulum has swung so fast from Barack Obama to Donald Trump that we’ve got whiplash.”

“I assure you it will swing back again,” she said.

Ebony Nyoni, who founded Black Live Matter Vermont, raised disparities in pay, work opportunities and health care between white women and women of color.

She also pointed out that many white women in the country voted for Trump for president.

“We must not forget that the needs of women are as diverse as they are, and that our elevation, our freedom is tied up together and wrapped in one pretty bow,” Nyoni said.

Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at the Women’s March in Montpelier. Photo by Emily Greenberg/VTDigger

When Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., made an unscheduled appearance at the podium, the crowd erupted. The junior senator, who won more than 86 percent of the vote in the Democratic presidential primary last year, was the subject of more than a few placards at the rally.

“You know, I have been driving down the interstate for many years. But I have never seen traffic backed up the way it is today,” Sanders said. “And I have never seen more people here at the Statehouse than I’ve seen today.”

Sanders pledged resistance to the Trump administration on women’s rights, immigration issues, racial justice and more.

“Mr. Trump I’ve got bad news for you. You are not going to divide us up by gender, by race, by who we love,” Sanders said. “In fact, your bigotry and your ugliness are going to bring us together in a progressive movement.”

Women's March

The crowd reacts to Sen. Bernie Sanders’s surprise appearance at the Women’s March on Montpelier. Photo by Elizabeth Hewitt/VTDigger

A slew of other speakers took the microphone, including Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, Rep. Kiah Morris, D-Bennington, representatives from Planned Parenthood and Migrant Justice, and more.

Montpelier police described the rally as peaceful and said there were no arrests. Though traffic in and around the city was congested in the early afternoon, it cleared up as the demonstration dispersed later on.

According to Cpl. David Kachajian, the department believed the crowd numbered as high as 20,000 — far exceeding the initial estimates of about 1,500 when the rally was first being organized he said.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had a group like this,” he said.

Elizabeth Hewitt

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  • David Van Deusen

    Today was the largest protest in Vermont history. I was pleased to be there with my family. I was especially glad my little girl (Freya) was there too as her great-great grandmother -Abby Crawford Milton- also marched back in the day to secure women’s’ right to vote. It is now up to us and to our children to protect those rights our ancestors won. I hope that from today forward the woman’s movement, the labor movement, minority movements -all of us- stand together in solidarity to see these hard times through and emerge stronger as a people and as Vermonters. Solidarity.

    • I was so very,very proud to be out amongst the wonderful people who live here in Vermont!!!! Such loving and positive feelings I have rarely enjoyed before today, but can totally feel and appreciate now! There is good in this world!

    • Todd Morris

      Solidarity to you is dividing us into groups and demanding individualized rights for each group. You see only special interest groups while ignoring what we have in common. You seek to trumpet the virtue of some groups based on superficial boundaries of gender, ethnicity or skin color while castigating others who, by chance of birth do not fit in those groups. Those that most loudly call for inclusion and tolerance are always the most intolerant and divisive of all.

      • Kathy Callaghan

        Todd Morris, I think that in your interpretation, you may be missing the basic premise. The basic premise is that people who don’t fall into the gender, ethnicity or other boundries already HAVE rights. Assuming that, then those who are advocating for the rights are trying to be included with those who already have the rights. That’s what it is about.

        • Neil Johnson

          Who organized the protests? Who paid for it? I can certainly understand why some people would loath Trump. This didn’t just “happen”, perhaps that would shed some light? How were people notified about this event? I wasn’t notified. It would be interesting to know.

        • Frank Beardsley

          And here I thought the ‘Bill of Rights’ applied to everyone. Who knew there were groups running around with no rights.

  • Roger bombardier Jr.

    Right ON! Truly Impressed.

  • Laurie emery

    Does anyone get paid to.march in these protests? Some are saying they do and that the buses are paid for by others and not those riding the bus. Is any of this true?

    • Marjorie Kramer

      Everyone I know who went to this march and indeed all progressive marches are not paid. People carpool I went down to this historic march with two friends, all of us over sixty with handmade signs. We went early to get a parking spot. A grand day to stand up for equality, love, and human rights. I would be suspicious of whoever is saying those things.

    • Loring Starr

      Thanks for posting your question!
      My goodness. There were as many as 20,000 (Yep, twenty thousand) people Saturday in Montpelier. My family and friends were out in force. No, nobody paid us. Ask yourself: Who would be able to pay 20,000 people? How much would they pay? And in DC, there were half a million people or more. Who would pay them? How much?
      I tried to get on a bus to DC, but they were all full. It would have cost me $125.00.
      And as another commenter said, I would be very, very suspicious of someone or some group who told me that folks were being paid.
      Best wishes,
      Loring Starr

  • Hilton Dier

    Consider that 15,000 people is 1 out of 44 Vermonters actually showing up, and that’s with many like minded people in DC.

    • Walter Carpenter

      It broke my heart that I could not be there today because of work. I am amazed and excessively happy that this march was so incredible and that it was so huge. I hope that this is only one of many more.

    • Kathy Callaghan

      And consider that some of the 44 are babies or elders who could not march. The number becomes even higher.

  • Julia Compagna

    Bravo organizers, bravo Montpelier city officials, Thank You All!

  • Women of Vermont, thank you for leading the way forward! What an amazing day it was…and now down to the really hard work ahead.

  • William Geller

    Terrific to see this high turnout in Vermont the nation and the world. This is a reactive protest, just wondering why the Dem.leadership failed to organize a proactive HUGE protest movement before this outrageous unqualified President was elected . The Sanders team did their part, but after the nomination Dem. leadership was a gigantic failure. It is well known in any competition to never never take victory for granted, especially when he beat all the other Republican contenders and all their money. Trump was relentless in his pursuit for the nomination and they knew he would do and say anything with no regard for truth. This was a very serious defeat and IMHO the failure to win is unacceptable.

  • It appears there is a groundswell of citizens everywhere against the policies of the Trumpster. You women have shown strength and resolve…..keep it up.

  • David schwartz,MD

    I am puzzled by the “thumbs down” votes that these sentiments have received. What is wrong with resisting sexism, racism, bigotry, ignorance, deceit, hatred….Should we all just silence our values and cower in face of our new administration? Please have the courtesy and courage to explain why you disagree with these sentiments.

  • Andi Rosin

    My husband and I were proud to be at the march and rally. It was uplifting to see so many young people, people that are the future of this country. The massive crowds at the State House, as well as around the country and the world (there were similar marches in 50 countries) gives me hope for the future.

  • There would have been even more of us at the Montpelier action except so many Vermonters traveled to DC for the Women’s March!

  • Tom Grout

    Is the cost of extra patrol and security going to be billed to the organizers of this event much like the quick fingers wanted to do for Trumps visit to Vermont or is there a double standard?

    • Kathy Callaghan

      Considering that Trump still hasn’t paid his bill, which he can well afford, it’s about even, I’d say.

      • Neil Johnson

        Obama didn’t pay his bill either. Perhaps this should be considered part of the job? Otherwise we can’t have protest unless you have money?

  • Stewart Clark

    Sue Minter said, “We are the people we have been waiting for.” …..worth remembering.

  • Ken Edwards

    Impressive indeed. Let’s make mass structural changes for 3% of Vermonters.

  • Ron Fastner

    Perhaps Bernie or his followers can clue in the rest of the country on the policies that Trump has proposed that will divide the country by gender?? I understand it is over the head of most on the left to realize we need a secure border. But dividing the country based on Gender???

    More rabble and air from Bernie.

    • Neil Johnson

      According to Saul Alynksi, you MUST divide, otherwise the community organizing breaks down. I don’t think their is any man or business person that doesn’t give women equal pay for equal work. The state has not come up with one example in 10 years, and they have all the pay stubs for every company in the state. Trump is not going to suddenly change every business owner and man in the united states to change their minds. Most men and women want to live if peace, harmony and love each other, not sure why so many think it’s changed.

      • Lori Cohen

        It is comments like yours, Neil and Ron, that bely the ignorance of those on the far right of this country, Statistically, women are paid 69 cents on the dollar as compared to men for the identical work. This is a fact, not fiction. It isn’t even “alternative fact.” The cry for defunding Planned Parenthood is a direct assault to every woman of economic limitations to deny health care. Grabbing women is sexual assault and not acceptable behavior. Even “locker room talk” of sexually assaulting women is not acceptable behavior. Any man who has ever had a mother, sister, wife, daughter should stand united for the right of women to be treated as equal, decent human beings.

        • Will Gilbert

          Hey Lori,

          Just a heads up that you should check out that statistic. As far as I know, the number is actually 79 cents to the dollar. Additionally, this does NOT account for similar work as you said. When it’s adjusted (for a number of factors) to compare identical work, the gap is ~95 cents to the dollar. From what I’ve read, it’s unclear exactly what accounts for that 5 cents difference. Women may work fewer hours, or not negotiate as aggressively when being hired (possibly because of fear of being labeled “bossy”) or a number of other reasons. Ideally this gap shouldn’t exist at all, but confusing the issue just gives the “other” side ammo to use against you!

          http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/07/paygap-discrimination/492965/

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