Paving a way for future activism now
Upon Donald Trump’s inauguration to the Presidency in 2017, hundreds of thousands of people gathered across the country to protest the incoming administration. This was dubbed the Womxn’s March and has occurred every year since. In Denver, the 2017 numbers stood around 150,000 protestors, but has since dropped to around 10,000 in the past two years.
On Jan. 18, 2020, crowds gathered again to protest a wide variety of issues, including reproductive rights, protections for indigenous peoples, and climate change. This year was different, however, for two distinct reasons: 2020 brings around both the fourth year of the Trump Administration and the impeachment processes against Trump himself.
This was evident among the signs at the Womxn’s March, one which read “super callous, fascist, racist, sexist, bigot POTUS.” Others read, “U.S. Out of My Uterus,” “Alt-right Delete,” “Boys will be boys better,” and one that simply stated, “I am very upset.”
The marchers chanted for Trump’s removal from office; multiple performances from groups including a sometimes-overpowered-by-the-crowd Denver Women’s Chorus, who sang “What Happens When a Woman?” by Artemisia; and even members from the League of Women Voters Denver chapter dressed in 1920’s clothing and sashes reading “Votes for Women.”
With the anti-Trump verbiage present at the march, and with this year marking the potential last of the Trump Administration, a question of “what happens next year if Trump is no longer in office?” arose among the crowd.
“Well, a celebration is in order,” Angela Astle, a CU Denver alumni and leadership team member for the Womxn’s March, said. “2021 is going to be more like a party.”
Astle marched in the 2017 protest when, after the election, she began to wonder “How could we have gotten so complacent?” She views the protest as a way to do something about “feelings of anger against the current administration and a way to channel that energy.”
However, Astle recognizes the challenges of maintaining public interest in an event that grew out of rage. When asked if the Womxn’s March is still an anti-Trump protest, she responded: “Sort of. It’s difficult to just be angry and maintain impact when you’re angry because anger is your fuel.”
In order to combat the potential disinterest if Trump is not re-elected in 2020, the Womxn’s March introduced a new feature to this year’s protest: The Impact Expo.
Held in the McNichols Building in Civic Center Park, the Impact Expo took over the first three floors with outreach from 54 non-profit organizations, including Emerge Colorado, Period Kits, Athena Project, Colorado People’s Alliance, and the Denver Justice and Peace Education Fund. At the same time, three art exhibitions, two workshops, and a live podcast recording of Dear White Women occurred. An estimated 4,900 people attended the expo, just under half of the 10,000 protestors present that day.
The Impact Expo themed around seven topics: reproductive rights, climate change, immigration, gun safety, domestic violence/sexual assault, arts and activism, and voting. There was even a interactive art project where protestors could write messages of kindness and wishes for the future on strips of colored cloth that would be hung on the wooden frame of a yurt. Astle hopes the expo encouraged people to “work through that anger to the place of action.” The Impact Expo itself can be expected to appear again at future marches.
The expo was the largest event ever hosted in the McNichols Building, according to the City of Denver Arts and Venue, who also allowed the use of the space. The Denver Womxn’s March also claims that the Impact Expo was the only event of its kind, to their knowledge, at any protest across the country on Jan 18.
The expansive list of issues being voiced at the Womxn’s March has been a point of controversy since the protests began, gaining a popular connotation of being “unorganized.” Astle, however, sees this as a much bigger pro than a con. “Individual but cohesive” is her description of the causes and people present at the march.
“The beauty of grassroots is people can motivate their own circles. So, collectively it will work,” she said. “We have to listen, communicate. Do research… If you’re engaged enough to vote, then you’re engaged enough to not become complacent.”