If the Civil-Rights and Feminist Movements of the 1960s Had Worked, We Wouldn’t Be Marching

A year ago, millions of people peacefully marched in the streets to protest Donald Trump‘s inauguration. The 2017 Women’s March was a massive, worldwide demonstration of how horrified people—not just women—were that America somehow voted into office a man who not only had zero political experience, but also operates in a headspace of ignorance often indistinguishable from hate. The policies he promised to implement sent shivers down the spines of people who’d usually consider themselves conservative or Republican. People marched in defiance of what was to come.

This year, the political climate is different, and so are the reasons for marching. Among the significant undercurrents at the Jan. 20 march was the importance of voting—midterm elections are right around the corner, people! In addition to SCREAMING out against sexual abuse and fighting for our precious free press, the energy of the march centered on encouraging women to run for office and standing in solidarity with the people the current administration is targeting (which is a fuck-ton of people, in case you didn’t know).

The cross streets of Flower and Sixth in Santa Ana were jam-packed. Before the actual march started, a number of speakers addressed the crowd, among them Santa Ana Mayor Pro-Tem Michele Martinez, the city’s only councilwoman. “This women’s march is beyond Trump,” she said to an impassioned crowd.

Martinez is inspiring in her run for mayor. To be honest, a watermelon would make a far better mayor than Miguel Pulido. But there’s so much corruption in Santa Ana I can’t help but side-eye anyone running for that seat. But having been to countless Santa Ana City Council meetings, I can say Martinez is not afraid to stand her ground.

I first witnessed Martinez’s fire at a four-hour city council meeting a few months ago. I was there to report on the council’s vote on the implementation of adult-use (a.k.a. recreational) cannabis. Pulido and councilman Vincente Sarmiento had recused themselves from the meeting because of their unsaid involvement in the city’s cannabis industry. (Insert side-eye here.) Those left at the table spoke as if they were in agreement with the new adult-use amendment, but there was no definitive attitude one way or the other.

Then, like a lightning bolt, Martinez began explaining the massive problems she saw with the amendment. She pointed out there were no findings or analyses outlining the potential outcomes of implementing adult-use in the city, adding there was nothing regarding the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in terms of cultivation. She asked whether there were any considerations as to Santa Ana’s climate action plan in all this, and no one had an answer. She asked how it would affect the city’s water-conservation plan. No one had much to say because it hadn’t been addressed in the amendment. Martinez demanded the meeting be adjourned to address the issues with special thought and analysis.

This disrupted everything. The council went back and forth on whether to vote on the amendment then or at a later time—as well as when or if everyone could make it. At one point, some council members tried to move the meeting to a time when Martinez couldn’t be there. (She was absent when the council did the first reading of the amended ordinance a month prior.)

Martinez looked each of her fellow council members in the eyes and firmly told each one that that wasn’t an acceptable option. The room was so silent you could hear cars passing on the streets outside. The intensity in the room was so opaque you could see it. But because Martinez stood her ground and demanded to be part of the decision-making process, the council figured out a time that would work for all members.

But back to the march. . . . A sea of signs went up as soon as we began walking: “It’s Time to Ovary-Act!” “The Oceans Are Rising, and So Are WE!” Parents, both male and female, pushed strollers and pulled kids in wagons. Little girls held signs that read, “I’m marching for my future” and, “Save our mother” with a drawing of the Earth on it.

It was a beautiful demonstration. In an era in which it’s easy to feel as if our votes don’t count, protesting is one of the only ways to physically get your message across—especially when 200,000 people are showing resistance, as was the case in New York City. Yet, there was an irritating lack of news coverage. Yes, the march was all over social media—but that’s not the news. Maybe a few publications (such as this one) wrote about it. But according to the official Women’s March site, there were 673 marches worldwide, with a total of 4,956,422 participants. It’s unacceptable that NBC is the only news station that provided coverage of the events, and according to the Washington Post, it was only somewhere around 30 seconds.

Whether it’s because of the government shutdown or because journalists are trying to course correct by diverting media attention to Trump’s angry male supporters, it’s safe to say the movement’s not dying. Everyone’s putting in the work to be present at the decision-making table.

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