Thousands march in Victoria for women’s rights

Thousands filled Centennial Square and chanted as they marched through downtown Victoria Saturday to protest U.S. President Donald Trump’s views on women’s rights.

The demonstrators gathered in pink-hatted solidarity with those participating in women’s marches in 673 cities in 57 countries around the world. Many carried signs and wore pink “pussy hats” in response to Trump’s remarks about grabbing women’s genitalia.

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“We stand united against hatred. We stand united against intolerance and racism and anti-Semitism,” said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, drawing cheers from the crowd.

“A horrific phenomenon is personified by the new president. That small group that I thought was eradicated — white supremacists, Nazis, Ku Klux Klan. These are titles that should have been relegated to history long ago and they are now resurrected in political forces. We stand together as Canadians, not against a specific person south of the border, but against the evil to which he has given oxygen.”

Retired teacher Becky Canterbury, 66, was among those marching. She was born in the U.S., but moved to Canada in 1969 because of her opposition to the Vietnam War.

“I still have all my relatives in the States, many of them Trump supporters,” Canterbury said. “I’m here because I’m grateful to live in Canada and to be part of this movement. We are one people and that is so important.”

Canterbury said her main problem with Trump is his lack of compassion, empathy and understanding in comparison with former president Barack Obama.

“That made me so, so sad,” she said.

“The audacity of him, trashing four former presidents sitting behind him at the inauguration and he spoke as if the U.S. had gone downhill. That’s fake news.”

Her friend, retired teacher Carol Johnson, came to the demonstration because she felt strongly about taking a stand against “tyranny.”

“We’re going backward. We thought we had all our rights as women,” Johnson said.

“It’s emotional to be here and to think you’re part of this whole movement, to stand here as women and say: ‘No more of this male-dominated society.’ ”

Nicholas Vandergugten, 33, was one of many men at the demonstration.

“I came out to support women — mothers, my wife, friends and everyone who is affected by Trump’s policies,” said Vandergugten, wearing a T-shirt that said Women’s Rights are Human Rights.

Jim Mullins, 69, was in the crowd with his wife, Heather Waldie.

“Even though it hasn’t directly affected me, I’m not only upset, I’m distressed by what’s happened in the U.S., and not only with the election,” he said.

“It’s what Trump represents, what he stands for, the people that have coalesced around him and his values. I thought by now in 2017, to go back to those times, I thought it was impossible.”

Mullins, who has one daughter and three granddaughters, said he was pleased with the large gathering.

“Even though I’m just one individual, it feels good to be part of something bigger. The more who show up, the more the message gets out, even to our own government.”

Bettina Kors said she attended the rally for her three daughters, ages 20, 18 and 15.

“The language I have heard of late is so offensive. I’m worried about the culture it creates,” Kors said.

“It feels empowering to be in the crowd. It gives you hope that there are lots of women and lots of men who support this.”

Effie MacMurchy, 22, came to the rally because she grew up listening to her mother talking about protest marches in the 1970s.

“When I was a kid that seemed so far away and hard to believe. It’s kind of terrifying that it’s come back around again,” MacMurchy said.

“I wish my mom was here with me. I’m here for the women now and I’m here for her.”

Many people felt strongly enough about the issues to travel to the main women’s march in Washington, D.C.

That included retired Victoria nurse Maureen Murphy-Dyson, who was visiting her daughter Sarah Murphy-Dyson in Toronto. They bought seats on a convoy of buses, which left Toronto at 6:45 p.m. Friday bound for Washington.

“I’m not very political and I haven’t done anything like this before, but this just felt like everything coming to a head for me,” Sarah said on Friday.

“I’ve had a feeling of dread since the election. It’s a feeling of safety disappearing. And now the march has opened up to include everything I believe in — indigenous rights, LGBTQ, the Earth, the environment and women and minorities. It’s such a powerful thing. Seeing all the mobilization around the world, I know I’m not the only person feeling this way, which is also pretty powerful and amazing.”

Maureen, 67, said she has always cared about women’s rights.

“I found the whole Donald Trump election and the rhetoric that came out incredibly discouraging. I thought I had this opportunity and I would march for that.”

More than 15,000 people marched peacefully through downtown Vancouver, with similar marches in cities and communities across B.C. including Nanaimo, which attracted about 900 people, and Salt Spring Island, where an estimated 600 people marched.

Events also took place in Castlegar, Kamloops, Kelowna, Prince George and Salmon Arm.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

— With files from the Vancouver Sun

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Earlier story

Two thousand people overflowed Centennial Square and marched through downtown Victoria this afternoon showing pink-hatted solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington.

Young and old, men and women, many wearing the infamous pink pussyhats, chanted “Love Trumps Hate” as they marched down Pandora Street.

There were also marches in Nanaimo and Courtenay.

As of Thursday, 616 events were registered at womensmarch.com, including 27 in Canada. Together they are expected to attract 1.36 million participants.

Organizers say the march is meant to promote women’s rights rather than oppose U.S. president-elect Donald Trump, but many who planned to attend have said they were motivated by the president-elect’s controversial statements during the election campaign. The event is on the day after Trump’s inauguration.

The march in Washington, D.C., is expected to draw 200,000 people, organizers have said. U.S. officials say about 1,800 buses have registered to park in the city on Saturday, compared with roughly 400 registered for Inauguration Day today.

. Nanaimo marchers met at 10 a.m. at Diana Krall Square. A gathering in Courtenay at Court House Park, England Avenue and Sixth Street, also started at 10 a.m. Barbara Mitchell-Pollock, an organizer of the Victoria event, said it’s hoped the march will attract as many as 1,000 people.

Mitchell-Pollock, a retired teacher, said speakers are expected to include Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, Green Party Leader and MP Elizabeth May, and New Democrat MLA Carole James.

She said she got involved to help preserve the freedoms and rights won by women’s activists of the past.

“Most of the people who are marching are concerned about the rights we have won and the rights we have worked for, and we don’t want to see them eradicated,” Mitchell-Pollock said.

Nanaimo organizer Sonnet L’Abbe, a poet and Vancouver Island University professor, said she became involved after a phone call from a friend who asked if she was doing anything in support of the Washington event.

Since then, L’Abbe said, she has seen the marches grow to include small towns such as Courtenay and Comox. Much of the organizing started on social media.

“It’s women participating in the democratic system in the time-honoured tradition of public demonstration to speak to leadership,” she said.

— With a file from The Canadian Press

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