An estimated 7,000 people – many wearing pink hats and carrying signs of resistance – packed the State House lawn in Providence this afternoon in the Women’s Rally Providence, organized in solidarity with the Women’s March in Washington. The peaceful two-hour event featured speeches from political leaders, activists, and students, as well as musical performances and thunderous call-and-response chants of “Rise UP!” that rippled through the crowd that surrounded the State House steps and stretched all the way out to Gaspee Street.
Organizer Shanna Wells kicked off the rally by welcoming attendees and talking about similar events around the world. “There are marches in 673 cities in 63 countries and on all 7 continents,” she said. “This is not a protest,” Wells said, “It’s a demonstration of unity and solidarity.” She stressed that the rally aimed at acceptance and nonviolence and encouraged attendees to honor those principles. And, she added, it was not about any specific issue. “This is larger than any one policy or person. This is about We the People.”
Rhode Island’s first woman Governor, Gina Raimondo, assured attendees that the state would remain true to its principles. “The people of Rhode Island are not going to compromise on our core values,” said Raimondo. “President Trump, you had better listen to us. We’re half the population and we matter too.” She encouraged attendees to maintain their intensity in the challenging times to come. “Dig deep, people,” she said. First Gentleman Andy Moffit followed, stressing the importance of men being present and supporting the movement. There’s a key message, he said, “We’re with you.”
Classical High School sophomore Ida Jimenez talked about the journey from November to this afternoon. “After the election, I was dumbfounded,” she said, Over time, though, she said that she came to the realization that “my voice matters,” and encouraged attendees to recognize their power.
Union member Shirley Lomba of SEIU 1199 talked about the importance of standing together on issues that impact women like the “fight for $15”, women’s healthcare, and cuts to Medicaid.
Danna Freedman, health center manager of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England’s Providence facility recalled what kept her going after November 8. “The morning after the election, I was despondent,” she said. “The thing that inspired me was showing up to work. Knowing that we would all show up to work and provide the services that women need.” She continued, “These doors will stay open. We will show up and provide these services no matter what the administration thinks.”
A musical group, The Extraordinary Rendition Band, led attendees in a rousing call-and-response song: “We don’t want your tiny hands/anywhere near our underpants.”
State Rep. Aaron Regunberg (D-4, Providence) looked out at the crowd filling the State House lawn. “Rhode Island, you are so beautiful. This is what democracy looks like. This is what joyful resistance looks like,” he said. “We should find hope in the incredible strength of our collective voices.”
Many in attendance carried signs. As a reporter walked through the crowd, he noticed many people carrying signs saying “Black Lives Matter.” Also spotted, “The future is female”, “I walk slowly, but never backwards”, “A woman’s place is in the Resistance”, “Rise up, Speak up”, and a simple set of icons: heart > $.
Dozens of RI political leaders were in attendance.
Rep. David Cicilline (D-1), who had just returned to Providence after meeting with marchers in DC this morning, told a reporter he had never seen a crowd like this at the State House. “This is an true expression of Rhode Island values,” he said, noting that attendees were there to defend the founding principles of the state and the progress we had made as a country. “It makes be very proud to be a Rhode Islander.”
“This is only the beginning,” RI Rep (and Democratic Party Chair) Joe McNamara (D-19) predicted to a reporter. “People are not going to sit by quietly.”
“There is a real concern about the national government,” Rep. Lauren Carson (D-75) told a reporter. “It’s exciting to see this kind of activism in Rhode Island.”
Sen. Josh Miller (D-28) “Sad that we have to have it, glad that its such a powerful expression, with the number of people that are here.”
Freshman Sen. Jim Seveney (D-11) found the event very hopeful. “It’s an exercise in freedom,” he said “It’s making sure that the dissenting voices aren’t drowned out by the results of the election,” Seveney said, referring to the just-inaugurated President Trump. “And if the noise is long enough and loud enough, maybe he will listen.”