“This would not have happened if every one of you hadn’t stepped up,” organiser Lisa Langevin told a vocal crowd of nearly 15,000. “It takes a village to raise a child, and this village raised this child.”
The crowd was gathered in Jack Poole plaza for the Women’s March on Washington – Vancouver, held downtown on a brisk Saturday morning.
The event was just one of a series of gatherings across the globe, with millions marching everywhere from the United States to France to Ghana. While ostensibly an anti-Trump rally, the march in Vancouver also addressed broader efforts to combat racism, sexism, and other forms of injustice through protest and other forms of activism.
After a short concert, the event began with presentations from several speakers, including representatives of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples, on whose unceded land the event took place.
In an emotional address, Rhiannon Bennett, one of the organisers and a member of the Musqueam First Nation, shed light on the unique struggle of indigenous women in Canada, pointing to the hundreds of unsolved cases of missing and murdered indigenous women across Canada.
“It is disgusting that there is a highway known as a Highway of Tears,” said Bennett. “If those were any other women, something would have been done by now.”
The addresses also referenced Canada’s colonial history on the eve of its 150th anniversary, with one organiser expressing the hope that the next 150 years would see more positive change and reconciliation efforts from the federal government.
The march began around 10:30 a.m., filling the streets and spanning several city blocks. Some attendees held signs quoting prominent activists such as Audre Lorde and Martin Luther King Jr., while others sported slogans like Pussies Grab Back and Love Trumps Hate.
Many also wore knitted pink toques as part of the Pussyhat Project, a campaign meant as a way for both attendees and non-attendees to show their support.
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“I think everyone here is taking a stand and saying ‘no’ to patriarchy, to misogyny, to racism, to nationalism,” said Kathleen Millar, an assistant professor of anthropology at SFU who marched with the group SFU Academic Women. “[We] need to learn to come out and be in solidarity against multiple forms of discrimination and oppression.”
The march culminated at Trump Tower on West Georgia street, where many left their placards and banners. At one moment, a young girl was hoisted above the crowd on her father’s shoulders, holding a poster that read Girl Power. Others held middle fingers up to the building’s large Trump sign.
After the march concluded, several attendees returned to Jack Poole Plaza for a series of closing speeches, including one from SFU student Samaah Jaffer.
“I think it’s really important that in the conversation on women’s rights, we acknowledge that systemic racism and our colonial history in Canada are so closely tied to patriarchy, and any kind of conversation on women’s rights needs to include conversation on the rights of people of colour in general,” Jaffer told The Peak.
“We cannot talk about the equality of women if we’re not talking about the equality all people.”
Jaffer’s speech also focused on the notable absence of Vancouver’s Black Lives Matter chapter at the event. In a statement on their website, the chapter said that they had “not been contacted in any way by the organizers of the Women’s March in Vancouver,” and maligned the lack of inclusion of black or trans voices in the event’s organisation.
This is in contrast to the event’s description on its Facebook page, which promised that participants in the march would “rally together in solidarity, equality, diversity and inclusion.”
For her part, Langevin expressed joy at the amount of support the march had earned. Addressing a smaller but no less engaged crowd in the final moments of the event, she noted that the fight for equal rights across Canada was far from over, and urged listeners to continue making their voices heard through protests and other actions.
“If not you, then who,” she asked the crowd, “and for heaven’s sake, if not now then when?”