A wisp of smoke, a feather, a flag, drums, signs, slogans — and a thousand determined footfalls.
Those were the instruments of protest brought to bear by the demonstrators who braved blustery headwinds and a late winter chill to participate in the 2019 Womxn's March and Rally for Action on Sunday, March 3, in downtown Portland.
The ceremonial smoke, songs, drumming and feathers came from a contingent of indigenous women, who led the cavalcade of more than a thousand as they marched north along Southwest 10th Avenue from a staging ground at the South Park Blocks near Portland State University.
"What a beautiful flower garden you are to God today," renowned Grants Pass spiritual leader and Takelma elder Agnes "Grandma Aggie" Baker Pilgrim told a cheering crowd before the march began. "We are a family, aren't we?"
Law enforcement blocked off vehicle traffic as protesters traversed the one-mile march that was operating under a permit issued by the Portland Police Bureau and city officials. For various reasons, local organizers decided to schedule Portland's Women's March out of sync with the rest of the country, which held similar events on Jan. 19.
Orators spoke from a podium beginning at noon. Referencing her appointment to the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, Democratic Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici name-checked the proposal by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, asking "Are you ready for a Green New Deal?" Evidently, the crowd was.
"There is a national emergency. His name is Donald Trump!" Bonamici continued.
Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal made her first public address outside the county boardroom, promising the audience she would do more than resist, but persist and insist on equality for everyone.
"We must make sure that the voices of black women, brown women, indigenous women, of immigrant women, Muslim women, LGBTQ women are lifted up at every level of the political system," she said, "as advocates, as organizers, as elected leaders, as the change makers we all are."
Other speakers included Reyna Lopez, executive director of the farm union Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste; Deborah Maytubee Denton, founder of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women USA; Shannon Olive, founder of WomenFirst; and Rabbi Debra Kolodny.
Hillsboro resident Barbara Chapnick marched to protect the pro-choice laws already on the books — and to help shatter the glass ceiling she experienced firsthand as a software engineer surrounded by male colleagues.
"I knew that my wages were not the same," the 73-year-old retiree explained.
Madison Lausche said she was dismayed to read recent news reports about proposed changes to Title X that would defund Planned Parenthood by halting the flow of federal dollars to abortion providers.
"Planned Parenthood is so much more than abortions. It's health care for people who can't afford it," the 18-year-old Gladstone resident noted.
For Alejandra Ruiz of the Portland Harbor Community Coalition, the march was a chance to remind the public that environmental degradation disproportionately impacts minority communities.
She said: "Mother Earth is the most important woman of all."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.