Unexpected number of Santa Feans flood streets

Thousands of protesters head north on Galisteo Street as they participate in a march to the Roundhouse that was held in solidarity with demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Clyde Mueller/The New Mexican

One day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, thousands of women, men and children filled the streets of Santa Fe, braving snow flurries and frigid temperatures in an overwhelming expression of outrage, fear, hope, joy and determination to build unity in a time of deep divisions.

The march echoed similar rallies in cities across the country in support of women’s rights, and all human rights that the demonstrators believe were cast under assault in Trump’s populist appeals to voters, and that may be more threatened with his assumption of the presidency.

The size of the march here and elsewhere dwarfed initial expectations — as many as 10,000 to 15,000 people packed the city’s streets as they made their way from the Bataan Memorial Building on Galisteo Street toward the Plaza and then to the state Capitol.

“We are a gentle, angry people, and we are singing, singing for our lives,” the demonstrators sang during a two-hour rally outside the Roundhouse.

“I cannot believe how many people turned out for this,” organizer Lindsay Conover of Santa Fe told the demonstrators from a stage erected at the Roundhouse. “… With our united energy, we can accomplish anything.”

The main march in Washington, D.C., and sister marches in other cities, including Albuquerque and Las Cruces, also saw crowds far surpassing expectations. News reports said millions packed streets across the nation and beyond to send a message to Trump that civil liberties must be protected.

The local march may have been born out of what Conover called “heartbreak” over Trump’s hostile election rhetoric against groups of people — women, immigrants, Muslims, the LGBT community and others — and the shock of realizing how many voters were supporting it. But the mood Saturday was anything but dour.

The mile-long parade of marchers, many of them sporting knitted pink hats with the words “pussy power,” carried signs declaring that “a woman’s place is in the resistance,” “this is what empowerment looks like,” “pussies vote” and “women make history.” Some carried signs that read “Hear our voices,” while others from the Upaya Zen Center wore badges alerting the crowd that they were marching in silence.

“In silence, we hold all things equally,” explained Joshin Byrnes.

Marchers chanted “Women united won’t be divided” and “we choose love.” They sang “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” They cheered. They drummed. They danced.

Lisa Evans, 26, of both Santa Fe and London, who was pushing her 4-year-old daughter, Averie, in a stroller and carrying 5-month-old Hazel in a pouch against her chest, said the event was a “beautiful” display of unity. She nearly skipped it because of the snow, but she said she was glad she changed her mind.

“It makes me have a shred of hope,” she said.

Evans said she was walking for her daughters. She nearly broke into tears as she said, “We shouldn’t have to be here in 2017. We have to rise up.”

Shirley Veenis, 58, a graphic designer in Santa Fe, said the march helped lift her spirits after Trump’s inauguration made her feel a bit down in the dumps.

“We think all of Santa Fe is here,” she said. “People are motivated. They are not going to stand by and let anyone take their rights away. … Our grandmothers and mothers worked hard for this.”

“Women’s rights are human rights,” Veenis added. “We all start from women.”

The march billed itself as a pro-rights march and not an anti-Trump march, but a visceral anger toward Trump was apparent among many in the crowd.

Santa Fe jeweler Melissa Dominguez said she was marching “because I hate Trump and everything he stands for.”

Simone Ropp, 15, a student at Santa Fe High School, said she and her friend, 14-year-old Daisy Smith of St. Michael’s High School, were marching because “we don’t support Trump. And we support all the people he’s insulted.” Together, they carried a sign that said, “Bossy women rule.”

David McDaniel of El Rito, one of many men in the crowd who said they were proud to march alongside the women, said he was marching against “a joke of a president. It’s a very bad joke.”

He and his wife, Sally, were among a group of about 50 people from the Abiquiú area. He called the crowd “awe-inspiring.”

Groups from as far as Albuquerque, Taos and Questa marched along with Santa Feans. U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., Hillary Clinton’s running mate in the November election, tweeted, “Proud of my mom marching in Santa Fe,” with a photo of his mother.

“We can sit down or we can stand up,” said Lisa Wollery, a charter school teacher in Taos, who was with a group of more than 20 girls and boys. “We chose to stand up and walk.”

Police presence was minimal during the event, with public safety aides closing roads to protect the marchers and a few officers chatting with participants along the way. Lt. Sean Strahon of the Santa Fe Police Department said there were no reports of problems or clashes. He estimated about 11,000 people attended the Roundhouse rally, while other demonstrators departed following the march.

As people began to gather at the Bataan Memorial Building in the morning ahead of the march, trudging through the snow and slush, Stephanie Schlanger cut a solitary figure on the Plaza, bearing a sign that read “Hands off my civil rights.” There was no sign of marchers, but the snow had stopped falling, and it was beginning to look like a perfect winter day for a demonstration.

“Protesting is just as much a part of democracy as anything else,” Schlanger said as she waited for the flood of activists to arrive. “All of our rights are threatened, rights we have had for decades, and we need to protect them.”

Within minutes, the sea of marchers appeared — young and old, male and female, gay and straight, a group that cut across all races, religions and cultures. They circled the Plaza on their way to the Roundhouse.

“We have to let Trump know that we are not going to roll over and play dead,” said marcher Joyce Westerber of Alto, N.M.

“I lived through marching with Martin Luther King,” said Santa Fean Estelle Miller, 73. “You have to stand up sometimes. The fact that this is organized around the nation is breathtaking.”

Fiona Sinclair of Cleveland, N.M., road her quarter horse, Slinkett, in the march, bringing up the rear. She carried a banner that read “Not my president.”

“He is illegitimate,” she said of Trump. “He did not win the popular vote.”

Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales, one of the first speakers to address the crowd at the Capitol as the clouds gave way to sunshine, said, “I woke up this morning a little bit sad still.” But he was encouraged, he said, as he thought of the values that many Americans hold dear.

“Values that respect all people make our country great,” he said.

Gonzales, who has gained national recognition for voicing his support for immigrants and declaring that Santa Fe will remain a “sanctuary city” for undocumented residents even in the face of threats by Trump to cut federal funding for such places, said he remains committed to pushing back against the president and standing up for “values that make Santa Fe a phenomenal city.”

City Councilor Signe Lindell told the crowd, “I’ve been doing this work for three decades. I didn’t think I had to do this in 2017.”

She made note of progress, such as marriage equality, but she also pointed to “mass reproductive health rollbacks” in states across the nation.

“I am sick of fighting for autonomy over my own body,” Lindell said. “I’m sick of insurance paying for Viagra but not birth control.”

And she’s weary, Lindell said, of men who believe that obstacles to women are a thing of the past.

Although she knew Saturday’s event wasn’t a political rally, she said, “we’ve just witnessed eight years of a family that worked for us.”

Lindell asked the crowd to bid farewell to former President Barack Obama in his own words, leading a chant of “Yes, we can.”

Bobbie Ferrell, a spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Tom Udall’s office, said the New Mexico Democrat, who was marching in Washington, had a message for the thousands of people who marched in his hometown: “Our girls deserve all the opportunities that boys have. … We’re stronger because of women. … There is no doubt that together we can change the world.”

Albuquerque Poet Laureate Emeritus Jessica Helen Lopez said she had rolled in with a bus full of musicians and poets because the arts are “a tool for social justice.”

Some of those poets, 11-year-old Sarita Sol Gonzalez and Gabriella “Gigi Bella” Guajardo, were crowd favorites Saturday.

“Why should I be afraid to live in my own gender?” Sarita asked as she recited a poem decrying misogyny, racism, fascism and ignorance. At times, her words generated laughter, and other at times, they drew an eruption of cheers and applause.

“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced,” she said. Girls are told to “go to a safe place” with a teddy bear, but “we will not back down! We are taking our teddy bears with us!”

Guajardo, a city of Albuquerque Women of the World Poetry Slam champion, read a poem that began by addressing reproductive rights: “Abortion is a multiple choice question in which you choose which way you will die.”

She spoke of a world that only wants a woman who is a wife, a mother, a beauty pageant winner, a baker.

“I am fearless,” she said. “I am woman, I am warrior. … I am an entire galaxy. I am a supernova. … I am not a mistake.”

Fatima van Hattum, a program manager with NewMexicoWomen.org — one of many women’s and rights organizations that participated in the event — reminded the crowd that “we’ve been here before. Many of our communities have been facing injustice for a long time.”

A Muslim woman, van Hattum spoke of being told to “go home,” drawing gasps and whispered apologies. “We’ve survived this before,” she said. “We got this.”

Corrine Sanchez of Tewa Women United offered a similar message, speaking of the “anti-rape culture,” land theft and environmental injustices Native people continue to face. “This does not start here today, and this does not end here today,” she said.

“We’re going to pray,” said Alice Martinez of Taos Pueblo. “We are going to protest. We are going to be in your face.

“We are everywhere.”

Generation Next writer Aurelia Valente contributed to this report.

Contact Cynthia Miller at 505-986-3095 or cmiller@sfnewmexican.com. Contact Robert Nott at 505-986-3021 or rnott@sfnewmexican.com.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed Corrine Sanchez as speaking about “anti-red culture,” when the report should have attributed to her speaking on “anti-rape culture.”