On Friday, January 20, Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.
On Saturday, January 21, more than 3.3 million people joined women’s marches in over 500 cities across the U.S. As crowd estimates still continue to trickle in, political scientists are already certain of one thing: Saturday’s demonstrations were the largest in American history. Demonstrations took over major cities and small towns, and people of all ages and races gathered together in amphitheaters, on streets, and at capitol buildings to make their voices heard. The ACLU was proud to stand with them.
The ACLU does not endorse or oppose candidates for elective office, but given the plethora of Constitutional and civil rights violations proposed by the president and his administration, we knew we needed to be prepared to respond to threats to our fundamental rights on day one. We also believe that dissent is patriotic, and that when the rights of any person are threatened, the rights of all of us are at risk. As the Women’s March in Washington and affiliated events across the country were organized, we recognized that we shared the organizers’ values in centering visibility on the experiences of those most vulnerable to injustices.
As women of color, we, and the many women at the ACLU of Florida, had many conversations about intersectionality, feminism, the election, and what these marches meant for us. We were hopeful that these marches could begin to heal wounds of division where we may have failed in the past, and provide inclusion where we felt solitary; hopeful that we would be bold enough to seek things which unite us, rather than spotlight our differences.
The ACLU endorsed the Women’s March on Washington, and ACLU affiliates across the nation joined in, endorsing local marches throughout the country, to stand together for an America where all people – irrespective of their race, sexual orientation, gender, nationality, or faith – are valued, integrated members of society. We made sure people knew about their right to protest, and we printed posters, sashes, buttons, and t-shirts to hand out to supporters at the marches. Most importantly, ACLU staffers prepared themselves to take to the streets to participate in one of our most treasured and valued freedoms – the right to protest.
In Miami, the two of us were invited to speak at the Women’s Rally in South Florida, convening at Bayfront Park Amphitheater in Miami. While we hoped the crowd would be large and peaceful, we could never have imagined the amphitheater would fill up so quickly, swelling to capacity at over 10,000 people in a mere hour, and leaving thousands more to rally outside together when the fire marshal closed the gates.
We decided our speech should be used to help people draw strength and support from one another. That we should celebrate each other, and highlight the equal justice challenges we knew were at the forefront of the protesters’ minds. We spoke one after another: first Casey, led the 10,000 present in the amphitheater in “The People’s Oath,” calling on everyone to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States; then Gaby, the only speaker at the rally who delivered their entire remarks in Spanish, called on everyone to unite to make our government accountable and recognize the power of the people.
Taking place on the first full day of a new presidential administration, the women’s marches were an opportunity for people to express their concerns – and hopes -- to our new government. They were a place where women, the LGBT community, Muslims and people of all faiths, people with disabilities, people of color, children, and families, to come together in solidarity and take action against harsh criminal justice reforms, discrimination against immigrants, restrictions on reproductive rights, race-based policing, and more.
We learned later that evening that the rally had grown to over 25,000. And that was just in Miami.
Across the state, marches and rallies took place in Tallahassee, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Naples, Jacksonville, Pensacola, West Palm Beach, and Tampa. Floridians everywhere were dissenting, and taking revolutionary and peaceful action together to make their voices heard.
One thing is for certain. Our voices were heard—all 3.3. Million of them.
On Saturday, we were part of a movement that will be part of our daughters' history books.
Today, and for all the days forward, we will continue to support the 3.3 million strong that dare to create the more perfect union of tomorrow.
Casey Bruce, Digital Communications Associate and Gaby Guadalupe, Media Relations Coordinator