An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people participated in the local March for Science, part of a series of rallies held globally Saturday in support of the sciences.
The rallies in more than 600 cities put scientists, who generally shy away from advocacy and whose work depends on objective experimentation, front and center in a public policy debate.
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Participants Saturday said they were anxious about political and public rejection of established science such as climate change and the safety of vaccine immunizations.
“We are here because we feel that facts are being ignored and we feel that facts cannot be debated,” said Oliver Fiehn, a UC Davis professor and director of the school’s West Coast Metabolomics Center. “People may have opinions about facts but you cannot ignore facts.”
The event started at Southside Park, where the gathering swelled from roughly 200 people. Sacramento singer Lauren Wakefield kicked off the event with a performance at the park Saturday morning. Crowds listened to speakers including District 6 Congresswoman Doris Matsui, tribal chief Caleen Sisk of the nearby Winnemem Wintu Tribe and Reem al Olaby, a postdoctoral autism researcher at UC Davis, throughout the day as they talked about the importance of science in their communities.
“We are doing this for our kids, and our grandkids,” Matsui told the audience gathered at the park ahead of the march to the state Capitol. “We are not going to stop.”
Thousands hit the streets around noon, marching toward the Capitol as they chanted: “There’s no such thing as alternative facts,” “Science is real” and “Make America think again.” The Sacramento Police Department, which provided the crowd estimate, said extra officers helped ensure safety along the route. Once there, additional speakers took the stage as marchers snapped photographs with one another, some holding up signs.
Sister marches were held in locations including Washington, D.C., London and Tokyo. Rally organizers said the event, which coincides with Earth Day, was intended to bring attention to the vital role that science plays in people’s day-to-day lives and political decision-making.
President Donald Trump, in an Earth Day statement hours after the marches kicked off, said that “rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate.”
Tricia Lee, a local march volunteer with the Sacramento chapter of March for Science, said the rally was prompted by women’s marches held in Sacramento and internationally in January. The Women’s March on Sacramento drew approximately 20,000 people.
Lee said the Trump administration has increased fears of reduced federal funding for important science programs such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.
Several groups, including the California Association of Professional Scientists union, state worker union SEIU Local 1000 and the international Wildlife Society, set up booths to share information about their organizations during the event.
David Rist, an environmental scientist and member of the California Association for Professional Scientists, said the day was intended to “support scientists because science supports healthy decision-making and a healthy society.”
The union represents scientists statewide to ensure fair pay, benefits and safe working conditions, he said.
Stephanie Brinson, a nurse who drove to Sacramento from Plumas Lake to attend Saturday’s march, said she was happy to see the large number of people at the event. As a nurse, she said she supported advances in medical science that would benefit the patients with whom she works.
“Instead of falling back into the old ages, we need to move forward and progress,” she said. “It’s about progressing.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.