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Michiganians march against new president

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — An estimated 8,000 Michiganians stepped into a sea of pink with hundreds of thousands from around the country Saturday for the Women’s March on Washington, cheering and chanting and calling for justice.

They showed up on the first day of President Donald Trump’s administration in support of reproductive rights, civil rights, workers’ rights and immigrants’ rights, depending on which marcher you asked.

A sign from the Michigan contingent of the Women's March on Washington. Organizers expected more than 8,000 women to travel from around Michigan to Washington for the march.

They hoisted signs, including “Vaginas Vote,” “Black Lives Matter,” and “Michigan Women Are Watching.”

Officials suggested the turnout for Saturday’s march eclipsed Friday’s for inauguration, with 275,000 taking trips on Metro as of 11 a.m., compared to 193,000 trips at the same time Friday, according to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

Amy Pethers was marching for the future rights of her granddaughter, 1-year-old Avery Arwen Mason, whose picture was printed on Pethers’ poster.

“I want her to be able to choose whatever she wants,” said Pethers, who took a bus here from Sheridan near Grand Rapids.

In Hancock Park, Democrats from the Michigan congressional delegation spoke to the crowd from Michigan in town for the Women's March on Washington. From left are Reps. Sandy Levin, Dan Kildee and Debbie Dingell, Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Rep. Brenda Lawrence.

“We as women got complacent in our rights, and now they’re in jeopardy. ... We need to encourage the younger generation to get involved and get empowered. Start at your local level.”

Starting in mid-November, Phoebe Hopps of Traverse City helped coordinate the Michigan contingent of the march. Roughly 8,100 had signed up to participate from the Mitten State, she said.

They filled 92 buses, and the rest traveled to Washington via plane, train or carpool. Many convened with Michigan banners and signs in Hancock Park early Saturday. Satellite marches were planned in Ann Arbor, Detroit, Lansing and Ypsilanti, among other communities around the country.

“I wanted our new government to understand and hear our voices,” Hopps said, striking an optimistic tone. “I created this to turn fear and sadness into hope and action.”

Hopps and many other women wore a pink, cat-eared hats named “pussyhats” — a play on “pussycat.” Vendors sold the caps on blocks around the National Mall.

The hats were a tongue-in-cheek response to comments by Trump that were caught on tape in which he talked about grabbing women’s genitalia, but he used a word beginning with “p.” The caps are an attempt to reclaim the derogatory term. Trump has denied grabbing women.

Sue Oldani and her kids, Annie, 22, and Tommy, 19, from Ann Arbor wore the hats. Oldani believes Trump is an illegitimate president, and she won’t speak his name aloud.

Her message for Trump: “You are outnumbered. We have a voice. We will come together. And you work for us!”

Before the Nov. 8 election, Julie Quilico of Saginaw said she kept quiet because she didn’t want to upset others with her opinions.

“I thought, Oh don’t be a loud mouth woman. Don’t piss people off,” Quilico said. “I am done keeping silent.”

Melissa Mays, a Flint activist who has called attention to the city's water contamination issues, was set to speak during the rally preceding the march.

“It’s been all women leading the water wars in Flint,” Mays said in an interview. “It should you that if women want to change the world, they have the power to do it.”

Five Democrats from Michigan’s congressional delegation met and welcomed the Michigan crowd to Washington at Hancock Park, including Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Lansing and Reps. Dan Kildee of Flint Township and Debbie Dingell of Dearborn. They addressed the crowd.

“Look at these sign here today. Don’t let the Republicans turn the clock back,” said Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Royal Oak, who attended with his wife, Pamela Cole. “We’re not going to let them. ‘Love Trumps Hate.’”

At times, women in the crowd interrupted the lawmakers to chant, “Stay strong!”

Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, said the uncertainty of the Trump administration is unsettling. She pledged to resist any attempts to defund Planned Parenthood.

“This is really a fight. He keeps using the word ‘movement.’ This is what a movement looks like,” Lawrence said, gesturing to those around her.

Dingell, who wore a pink Planned Parenthood scarf, said she was flying home at noon to attend the Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor marches in her district.

“This is a positive day,” Dingell said in an interview. “There’s a sense of community. It’s a diverse crowd. This is multi-generational, and there’s no tension here.”

mburke@detroitnews.com

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