An estimated 3,000 marchers turned out for the Women’s March on Asheville on Jan. 20, the first anniversary of last year’s march, which occurred on the day of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. The 2018 march once again was held in solidarity with women’s marches all over the country.
This year’s event local was organized by four Asheville High School students: Sawyer Taylor-Arnold, Aiden Justus, Sarah Kate Head and Isabelle Freireich. “I hope people use this march as a catalyst for change and as an opportunity to meet people and get stuff going, start voting and registering people to vote. I really hope that people use this as an opportunity to get out in their community, get involved and not make this their one event of the year, “ said Taylor-Arnold.
Marchers held signs for a wide range of issues: ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protections for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally who were brought here as children, health care reform, LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights, Black Lives Matter, calls for peace, calls for the impeachment of Trump and calls for unity.
Before the march, attendees gathered at Memorial Stadium, where speakers included Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer, who recounted what she saw as progress for women in the past year. She encouraged those assembled to “march on” and demonstrate their collective power at the voting booth.
Newly elected Asheville City Council member Sheneika Smith said she had not aspired to become an elected official before her experience in the Black Lives Matter movement. She added that many women did not join the march this year because they did not feel represented. “It starts and it ends with what you let take root in your heart. Our hearts are often like our purses — full of crap that we don’t really need,” she said. “Oftentimes, we have to dump out some of the most embarrassing things in order to find our keys. Our keys! Our keys are the tools that we need to unlock our sanity, our self-worth and our peace.”
Smith ended her remarks with a call for all women to work together. “I urge you today to unpack your purse of every moment and rid yourself of everything that you would like to personally achieve today to make room for another woman’s dignity,” she said. “There is a great task before us, and intersectionality is what we need in order to fight the fight before us. Because if one of us is bound by racism; if one of us is bound by poverty; if one of us is bound by militarism, mass deportation and mass incarceration, then none of us are free.”
As the speakers finished, marchers streamed out of Memorial Stadium and onto the sidewalks along Biltmore Avenue. Asheville firefighters and police officers were on hand to manage traffic and make sure marchers stayed on the sidewalks. Upon reaching the Vance Monument, marchers congregated and waved protest signs at honking cars. Attendees took turns at an open mic projected by portable speakers until all marchers had finished the route.
All photos by Cindy Kunst