‘Grab ’em by the midterms’: Sacramento Women’s March looks to November election

A year ago, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg stood on the Capitol steps and vented his frustration about Donald Trump’s election with 20,000 gloomy protesters at the city’s first Women’s March.

On Saturday, he noticed a different feeling in a pink-hatted crowd of more than 30,000 as he stood in the same place for the city’s second Women’s March.

This time, the marchers seemed to think they had the muscle to check Trump by winning in upcoming elections that could flip the balance of power in the House of Representatives.

“A year ago we wondered how bad it would be, and it certainly has lived up to expectations,” he said. “But we are stronger, too. We have resisted and we have organized.”

The enthusiasm he expressed was echoed by other speakers, who advocated for women’s equality in the workplace, condemned sexual violence and criticized Trump in a half-day rally that began at Southside Park and ended at the Capitol.

Around the state, hundreds of thousands of people gathered at similar rallies, from a crowd of about 1,200 in Modesto to more than 500,000 in Los Angeles.

“The final chapter of this story has already been written and in it we are equal,” said Sacramento City Councilwoman Angelique Ashby.

The day’s theme in Sacramento was shaped in part by We Said Enough, the campaign drawing attention to sexual harassment in the Capitol that was organized by female lobbyists and government employees. Three of the campaign’s founders – Samantha Corbin, Adama Iwu and Alicia Lewis – gave a keynote speech in which they urged women to speak out against sexual harassment.

“They can shame us. They can call us sluts. They can call us crazy. But, speaking from experience, they can only fire you once and then you can come back tomorrow and raise hell,” said Lewis, a lobbyist who has filed a lawsuit alleging that her former firm, Wilke, Fleury, Hoffelt, Gould and Barney, fired her because she participated in the We Said Enough campaign.

Like last year, many of the protesters seemed animated by their opposition to President Trump. Some carried signs mocking his use of Twitter.

Others referenced the Access Hollywood videotape that was leaked to The Washington Post just before the 2016 election in which Trump makes vulgar comments about women. “Grab ’em by the midterms,” one woman’s sign read at the rally.

Throughout the crowd, other protesters also carried signs urging people to vote in November’s midterm elections. They read “Flip the House,” “Be the Change, Vote 2018” and “Vote Female 2018.”

Two first-time political candidates trying to harness that energy by unseating Republican Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, turned out crews of volunteers for the march. Normally, McClintock’s district is considered safely Republican. This year, it’s on a list of seats the Democrats think they can flip.

“Last year a lot of us were in shock. This year, it’s 2018. People are realizing we can’t just march, we have to vote. We have to get involved in our campaigns. We have to make a difference at the ballot box,” said Regina Bateson, who attended the Sacramento march. Bateson, a former foreign service officer, and Jessica Morse, a former civilian adviser to a military command, are competing as Democrats to challenge McClintock in November. Single-payer health care advocate Roza Calderon also is challenging McClintock.

Elsewhere in the crowd, marchers said they simply took heart in each other’s company.

“I’ve seen people come together that don’t usually come together. That gives me hope,” said the Rev. Terri Miller of Sacramento.

The march also included segments that recognized teenagers, encouraging young women to become leaders in their communities or to pursue careers in male-dominated fields. Kennedy Schoennauer, 12, addressed the crowd by saying, “I have big dreams and high expectations and I am mighty enough to deliver them.”

UC Davis researcher Reem al Olaby brought a troop of Muslim Girls Scouts on stage with her for an appeal urging young women to become scientists and engineers.

“We have to engage and inspire more girls to pursue careers in STEM fields,” she said. “To show them that science is a career where they will be valued and they can contribute to the welfare of humanity.”

Olaby’s scouts also paid tribute to Sophie and Sara Rouin, the West Sacramento sisters who were killed by their father on New Year’s Eve. The Rouin sisters had been members of the troop, and Olaby said the girls had aspired to become scientists.

“We will always remember Sophie and Sara and we’ll do our best to make their dreams come true in making this world a better place,” the girls said.

Adam Ashton: 916-321-1063, @Adam_Ashton

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