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Women brave cold to rally for rights in Michigan, across nation

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Clinton Township — Women’s rights, gun control and climate change, among other issues, drew protesters to the streets Saturday to march in Michigan and around the country.

Approximately 50 people braved the bitter cold to gather at Partridge Creek in Clinton Township Saturday afternoon, joining thousands in other cities as part of the nationwide Women's March rallies.

The rallies also focused on issues such as pay equity, reproductive rights and immigration.

Carole Chi, Sterling Heights Democratic Club Chair, said she became politically active nine years ago when she retired from being a teacher. She was inspired by two women who started Fems for Dems, a political action group focused on electing progressive candidates, in Oakland County after the 2016 election and decided she wanted to do the same in Macomb County.

"We wanted to show there are Democrats in Macomb County and despite so much hate and anger from people who confronted us driving by, there were more people honking their horns," said Chi, who is also running for Macomb County Commissioner in District 4.

"We want Democrats elected from the top all the way down the ballot so we can be for the people, so that this country does not get destroyed, so global warming can be halted and work against the current administration."

Eric (no last name given), of Sterling Heights, shows support for President Trump on Saturday.

Protesters held signs and rallied on the sidewalk in front of Nino Salvaggio on Hall Road, near Partridge Creek Mall. They were also joined by 10 pro-President Donald Trump counterprotesters. 

"He's our president and if he's working hard for us, I back him up," said Women for Trump member Denise Marie. "They were yelling at us about abortion and how I don’t believe in abortion and how women have rights, but I think a child has a right also. It’s still conceived and still human. They were mostly pro-Elizabeth Warren, based on their signs."

While she said she's not completely conservative and agrees with the women on issues like global warming, she stands with Trump because of issues that matter to her.

"Some of the ideas they have are off-the-wall," said Marie, from Sterling Heights. "It's everything that's coming down and they’re not giving Trump a fair chance. We all have our ideas. I'm a small business owner and you can't complain about the stock market or that people have money to spend."

Andrea Geralds, who helped organize the event, said they are pushing for lawmakers to focus on the Violence Against Women's Act that expired in February 2019 and policy on sexual assault crimes against women.

"It's a weird feeling that we out-numbered the counterprotesters so strongly and to know our voice is there and heard is very exciting," she said. "At this point, so many women are done being overlooked as a political force. The year 2018 was a shift in how women are going to do politics and it’s going to be nothing compared to 2020."

March organizer Andrea Geralds, left, of Macomb, hands the microphone to Melody Magee, of Warren, who is co-chair of the Ninth District Democrats.

Hundred showed up in New York City and thousands in Washington, D.C., for the rallies, which aim to harness the political power of women, although crowds were noticeably smaller than in previous years. 

Organizers expected about 100,000 people across the country to participate in this year’s Women’s March in more than 180 cities. Several thousand gathered in Washington, far fewer than the turnout last year, when about 100,000 people held a rally east of the White House.

The first marches in 2017 drew hundreds of thousands of people to rallies in cities across the country on the day after Trump was inaugurated. That year's D.C. march drew close to 1 million people. Still, many protesters made the trip Saturday to the nation’s capital from cities across the country to express their opposition to Trump and his policies. Trump is spending the holiday weekend at his resort in Florida.

In Manhattan on Saturday, hundreds of people who gathered at separate events in Foley Square and Columbus Circle planned to converge at Times Square as part of a “Rise and Roar" rally.

In Denver, organizers opted to skip the rally after the march and instead invited participants to meet with local organizations to learn more about issues such as reproductive rights, climate change, gun safety and voting.

Some 200 people marched during the snowstorm near Boston, while a few dozen people demonstrated on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall.

Local and national activists say the numbers should not be mistaken for a lack of energy or motivation to vote Trump out of office come November.

The anti-Trump movement of 2020, they say, is more organized and more focused on action. Many people have moved from protesting to knocking on doors for candidates, mailing postcards to voters, advocating for specific causes or running for office.

"It looks like it's lacking, but the weather can attribute to that," said Chi from Sterling Heights. "I was soaked from the rain and snow and had to go home. We worked in shifts and other protesters replaced us after 1.5 hours and it's not just protesting, others are getting out there and being active.

"Fems for Dems helped Oakland County flip several seats and I'm starting a chapter and we're going to do the same in Macomb."

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_

The Associated Press contributed.