Shirley Okey, 99, of Sacramento has seen women make significant strides toward equality in her lifetime, but she wants to see more progress.
“I want fairness,” Okey said. “I want equality. I want a Senate with half women and half men.”
Dressed in pink, Okey took a bus Saturday morning from downtown retirement home Pioneer House to join the third annual women’s march. When her bus parked at the corner of 8th and Q streets, Okey descended on the wheelchair lift greeted by applause and a band playing. She bobbed her head to the music and raised her fist in the air, to cheers.
Sacramento Police estimated about 10,000 marchers participated in the event, joining thousands more in cities around the country to protest President Donald Trump’s presidency and his policies on immigration, reproductive rights and the environment, among other issues.
Attendance this year was down from the estimated 36,000 people that took part last year and about half the crowd organizers estimated came out for the first march.
That mirrored similar trends in other cities in California – San Francisco, for example, drew about 60,000 people, down from 80,000 last year, while Oakland had 8,000 to 10,000 people, down from between 60,000 and 70,000, according to The Mercury News in San Jose. In Los Angeles, an estimated 250,000 participated in the city’s event, according to the Los Angeles Daily News, down from 750,000 who came out in 2017.
This year’s march, following midterm elections in which Democrats gained a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and saw local wins nationwide, carried a hopeful tone.
Pink-clad participants marched from Southside Park toward the Capitol starting at 10 a.m. They carried signs with slogans such as “support all women,” “nevertheless she persisted,” “it’s Mueller time” and “men of quality don’t fear equality.”
Marchers shouted chants including “the people, united, will never be divided” and “sí se puede,” Spanish for “yes we can.”
The procession ended on the Capitol steps, where local leaders spoke, including Sacramento’s sole councilwoman Angelique Ashby, who read the names of women recently elected to local boards and councils.
They included Porsche Middleton, the first African-American woman elected to the Citrus Heights City Council, and Stephanie Nguyen, the first Asian woman to serve on Elk Grove City Council. Both were elected in November.
“That (women’s) wave didn’t just stop in Washington, D.C.,” Ashby said. “That wave went over Sacramento, too.”
Ashby encouraged more women in the crowd to run for office.
“All you have to do to join us is take the step,” Ashby said. “One step at a time. One phone call. One door knock ... You can do it.”
Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove, D-Culver City, who was elected last year, echoed the call.
“Don’t let the blue wave we saw in 2018 turn into a low tide,” Kamlager said.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who spoke at the march the last two years, this year deferred to his wife.
“I’m here because it’s not enough to say ‘I don’t like what’s going on in our country and in our world,’ ” said Julie Steinberg. “We, together, must set an example for how to make a difference.”
Susan Braverman, lead transportation security officer at Sacramento International Airport, told the crowd about her struggles as a furloughed employee since the government shutdown started Dec. 22.
“I’ve spent the last 28 days wondering when I’ll see my next paycheck,” Braverman said.
Many men and families also attended the march.
Jared Lash of Roseville brought his 7-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter to the march.
“He needs to understand the women in his life aren’t always given the same privileges and rights,” Lash said of his son, who sat on top of his shoulders holding a sign that read “do not give up.”