VOL. 10 | NO. 4 | Saturday, January 21, 2017
Memphis Women's March Draws Thousands Downtown
By Bill Dries
Several thousand people marched Saturday, Jan. 21, from the D'Army Bailey Shelby County Courthouse to the National Civil Rights Museum in one of several dozen “Women’s Marches” across the nation including the largest gathering in Washington D.C. the day after President Donald Trump began his term of office.
“You are continuing the fight,” Adrienne Bailey, one of the organizers, told a crowd estimated at 6,000, gathered outside the Courthouse. “We’ve got a lot on the line, women. We’re being called again to rise up.”
U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen likened parts of Trump’s inaugural address Friday to Nazi rally speeches in Germany in the 1930s.
“This is the most serious threat to our Constitution in our lifetime,” he said of Trump’s plans. “The truth always wins in the long run.”
He also urged those at the march to turn out the vote in the 2018 Congressional mid term elections.
Organizers said 2,800 people registered in advance for the march as a preliminary indication of what to expect. With sunny skies and mild temperatures, the numbers went up from there. The peaceful march included volunteers in safety vests acting as guides.
One of the organizers told the crowd to not react if they encountered people along the march with a different point of view.
“Do not argue with them. Do not engage with them,” she said. “If they go low, we go high.”
At one point the line of march all the way across Second Street stretched from Gayoso Avenue to Adams Avenue with more waiting to turn the corner from Adams onto Second.
It was the largest demonstration in years, nearly double the size of the spontaneous July 10 Black Lives Matter march that shut down the Hernando DeSoto Bridge.
Those in the march Saturday included leaders of that effort as well as veteran political organizers, leaders of women’s and civil rights organizations and those who just became political active in the 2016 presidential campaigns.
“This is a party. This is a celebration,” Bailey told the crowd. “But it’s time to roll up our sleeves. Think of the historic things you are doing today.”
At the end of the march at the National Civil Rights Museum, museum president Terri Lee Freeman warned against “efforts and rhetoric that want to divide us.”
“Today as we enter into another era where civil and human rights are being threatened every day, we need those who believe that equity is a real issue, those who want a community that is inclusive, that embraces the complexity and richness of diversity … to say no more.”
She spoke from the museum’s plaza area facing the balcony where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. The crowd filled the hillside behind her and the courtyard of the museum in front of her overflowing onto the side streets as well as South Main Street.
“As we leave this march, I want you to be honest and accept that this mile plus walk is only symbolic,” she said. “The real work and commitment starts when we leave this place.”