Kansas City-area residents flocked to Lawrence’s Women’s March Saturday in the absence of a local event to attend.
Among them was Ayrcyia Thomson, who donned enormous feathered wings in her costume as Columbia, the feminine representation of America.
“I thought that was appropriate for this event,” Thomson said before the activities began. “Since Kansas City wasn’t having an event, I came here to Lawrence.”
Rallies like the one in Lawrence were planned for over the weekend in the United States and elsewhere. They come a year after the Women’s March on Washington and elsewhere protested President Donald Trump’s inauguration and policies.
The group that organized the large Kansas City gathering last year — police had estimated 5,000 attended the rally at Washington Square Park — did not plan one this year. Instead, organizers said they focused on getting women elected to office.
Organizers of Lawrence’s rally set a theme of celebration for the political accomplishments of women in the last year and of preparation for upcoming elections.
Elizabeth Benditt brought her daughter, Eve, and son, Alex, to the Women’s March from their home in Leawood. Like others, she wanted to push back on the policies and actions of President Trump.
“In 20 years, when they’re studying this administration and all the damage they did, I want them to remember, we did something, we resisted,” Benditt said.
Signs carried many familiar messages of protest: “Respect My Existence or Expect My Resistance,” “Nevertheless We Persist,” “Gun Violence is a Women’s Issue,” “Super Callous Fragile Racist Sexist Nazi Potus.”
Kelly Epley held up a sign that said “Today We March Then We Vote.”
“I’m tired of being paid less, women being treated poorly and Trump being an idiot,” Epley, of Lenexa, said.
Speakers carried the feminine theme into calls for action.
The Rev. Sherrie Taylor-Jones, senior minister at Unity Lawrence, said protests don’t work like they used to. She said masculine energy — power, logic, decisiveness and dominance — is part of everyone to some degree, but she urged her audience to tap a different force.
“Look around. Who’s here?” she shouted to an audience estimated at 1,500 or more. “This is the energy that is going to change the world.”
Taylor-Jones urged them to harness their feminine energy: to be supportive, caring, concerned, inclusive.
“Feminine energy is not weak. It is strong. It is fearless,” she said. “Find yours. Develop it.”
Educator Julia Goodfox called on those assembled to unite in their efforts to protect the environment, their rights and education.
“We don’t have the option to go this alone,” said Goodfox, dean of the College of Natural and Social Sciences at Haskell Indian Nations University. “We are responsible for each other.”
The crowd also heard from Paul Davis, Kansas Democratic candidate for Congress’ 2nd district seat, which is up for grabs as U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins intends to retire when her term ends.
“More than anything, you don’t need a guy like me to mansplain the importance of this movement,” Davis said. “Men are better because of it. You have raised the consciousness of our country and you will go down as game changers in the story of America.”
Christine Smith, with event organizer February Sisters, counted among the accomplishments a record number of women seeking political office, protests to protect the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare and efforts to defeat Roy Moore, the Alabama Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate who had battled against allegations of making unwanted sexual advances toward teenage girls while in his 30s.
February Sisters formed in 1972, when 30 women occupied the East Asian Studies Building at the University of Kansas to demand a level playing field for women students and staff, according to the group’s Facebook page.
Smith said, “I was there, in the house, in ’72,” along with her co-organizer Jo Andersen.
They also saw Saturday’s rally as a way to advance a political push for the 2018 elections.
“We did it because Lawrence is a blue spot in a red state,” Smith said.
A similar event will be held in Topeka, at the south steps plaza of the State Capitol Building, on Sunday from 1-3 p.m.