Hilo Women’s March: ‘We’re in Serious Danger’January 21, 2017, 3:39 PM HST (Updated January 22, 2017, 8:12 AM)
An estimated two thousand people of all ages, gender identities and backgrounds gathered at Hilo’s Moʻoheau bandstand Saturday morning, Jan. 21, in a show of solidarity for women and universal human rights following President Donald Trump’s inauguration Friday.
The unofficial, preliminary count estimates the number of participants at approximately 2,200, according to information provided to event organizer Tara Braun by Hawai’i Island police.
The gathering was one of approximately 600 held around the world today including a huge march in Washington, D.C. In addition, rallies were also held in all 50 U.S. states, and the Neighbor Islands of O‘ahu, Maui, Kaua‘i, as well as London, Berlin and other major cities.
“Our event today is not an anti-Trump protest,” said Julie Zimmerman, key event organizer of the Hilo Women’s March. “It is a statement of our shared humanity and the fundamental rights that spring from it.”
“Ultimately, we’re trying to unify our community and bring everybody together,” she told Big Island Now. “We really want this to be the kickoff point for more community involvement because with the incoming administration, a lot of these organizations are going to need our support now more than ever.”
After an opening musical performance and pule, Zimmerman addressed a growing crowd dressed in rain gear and huddled around the park’s gazebo beneath umbrellas amid a passing downpour. Many clutched protest signs and banners.
Noellie Rodriguez, a sociology professor at Hawaiʻi Community College, spoke to the crowd after Zimmerman, urging people to stay politically involved.
“We’re here today because we know we’re in serious danger,” said Rodriguez, referring to the Trump Administration’s policies, which she views as a threat to women’s rights, racial equality and civil liberties.
As the crowd grew larger, marchers took to the sidewalks of Downtown Hilo around noon, holding signs and chanting slogans promoting justice and equality, and denouncing what marchers called President Trump’s degrading campaign rhetoric towards women.
Police firmly urged the advancing crowd to stay on walkways and out of the street as they overwhelmed crosswalks and held up traffic.
The packed event was attended and supported by over two dozen local organizations focused on women’s and civil rights, including the ACLU, YWCA of Hawai‘i, Mom’s Across America and Planned Parenthood.
Alexandra Alcisto, another Hilo Women’s March key organizer, said she hoped the event would inspire people to act.
“After this, we hope that each of the community members and organizations that are here will create direct action,” she told Big Island Now. “When people understand and are aware of what exists, they understand what we must preserve.”
The Hilo Women’s March was organized by a committee of five female volunteers, including Zimmerman, Alcisto, Cat Killam, Tara Braun and Samantha Black.
The global march was originally started by Maui resident Teresa Shook, who ignited the movement with a Facebook post calling for a march of solidarity following the election results in 2016.