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Lansing – The skies were cloudy Sunday but the message clear: Supporters of women’s empowerment were unhappy with the direction of the country in the past year and vowed to reverse it at the midterm elections.

Thousands of people converged on the steps of state Capitol to hear speeches by women from disparate backgrounds during the Women’s March Michigan.

The reasons for displeasure among speakers and protesters were manifold: They ranged from domestic violence to gun control to treatment of the gay community. The link were the people being hurt by those actions – women.

“It’s a war on women. We need to arm ourselves,” said attendee Lynn Park, 53, who traveled from Westland.

The rally was held to mark the anniversary of the national march held in Washington last year to protest the election of President Donald Trump. It was one of 200 rallies held across Michigan and the country this weekend.

In East Lansing, a group assembled at Michigan State University to criticize President Lou Anna Simon, whom they argued mishandled a case involving sports trainer Larry Nassar, who has pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography and sexually abusing athletes during supposed treatment.

In Lansing, the discontent was registered on signs, which were nearly as plentiful as people. Among them: “Resistance is Fertile,” “Still here, Still nasty, Still voting,” and “I’m with Her,” with arrows pointing in every which direction.

Pussy hats were on full display, including ones worn by dogs. The caps are an allusion to Trump’s boast on a 2005 videotape about grabbing women inappropriately.

“He thought we would roll over,” demonstrator Tess York of Monroe said about the president. “We’re not quitters in our family.”

If unhappiness had a name during the Sunday rally, it was Donald Trump.

The crowd chanted he needed to be booted from office. Speakers said he was wrong about everything from abortion to immigration to treatment of minorities.

They exhorted the crowd to vote like-minded politicians out of office, or even run themselves, during the midterm elections in 2018.

“We are the leaders we have been looking for,” said speaker Phoebe Hopps, who organized the Lansing rally.

In a weekend fundraising email, the Michigan Republican Party defended Trump’s record.

“Despite constant attacks from liberals and the left-wing media, President Trump is putting America first and our nation is winning again,” according to the email. “Since the President took the oath of office, more than two million jobs have been added to our economy and our national unemployment rate has fallen to a 17-year low.”

The party’s email also noted passage of tax cut legislation that “will put thousands of dollars back in the pockets of hard working middle-class Americans” and the appointment of rule-of-law Justice Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.

But rally speakers told the crowd that the past 12 months of politics and gender issues have continued an oppression of women that has been going on for decades.

Organizers sought speakers from a wide variety of backgrounds. They represented various race and religions and causes.

One was Cindy Garcia of Lincoln Park, whose husband Jorge was deported to Mexico last week after living in the United States for 30 years. Like other speakers, she addressed her remarks to the president.

“What happened to my husband?” she asked during her emotional speech. “You are separating families.”

Garcia will be the guest of U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, during Trump’s Jan. 30 State of the Union speech to a joint meeting of Congress.

In a separate gathering, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Gretchen Whitmer told a group of supporters the midterm elections were critical because the winners could redraw congressional districts.

“We have nine months. Women can do miraculous things in nine months,” she said to cheers

State Rep. Leslie Love, a Democrat from Detroit, said the rally should be the beginning of work by participants.

“It doesn’t stop today. It goes all the way to the end,” she said about supporters bringing the fight to the ballot box.

fdonnelly@detroitnews.com

(313) 223-4186

Twitter: @francisXdonnell

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