By Brittany Dekorte
While the Women’s March in DC was the country’s main event, it’s estimated that millions of women marched in more local events around the globe. Ann Arbor contributed an estimated 11,000 bodies to that count. Men, women, children and pets walked the blocks from the Ann Arbor Federal Building to the Diag in weather that was better than one could hope for on a late January day.
The Ann Arbor sister march was a joint effort, put on by Michigan to Believe In and Progressives at the University of Michigan. Michelle Deatrick, a former Bernie Sanders staffer, helped found Michigan to Believe In in August 2016 and is the group’s lead organizer.
“A lot of people in Ann Arbor are going to DC, but for students it can be hard with finances and scheduling to travel so far. This a way for students to participate,” Deatrick said ahead of the march.
March participants ranged in age, race, and gender expression, from elderly women in pink knit caps carrying signs that read “Nanas for Equality,” to a man with his infant daughter strapped to his chest, a sign on her reading “Babbling for Rights, Hear Me Roar!”, to a dog walking with it’s owner bearing a sign that read “Accept All Breeds”. Some of the women there had planned on being at the march in DC; one group from Cheboygan carried signs that said “Rally Busses Suck” along with their march themed sign, because the company overbooked and left them without transportation between Ann Arbor and DC.
Businesses, such as Encore Records on Liberty St, supported the march as well, shutting their doors for the duration of the march and letting employees stand on the sidewalk with their own signs. Representatives from Common Language, the only feminist and LGBTQ+ specific bookstore in the state, carried a sign that marched in multiple LGBTQ+ and women’s marches over the past 30 years.
The rally at the end of the route included multiple progressive speakers, from UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada, to Detroit poet and LGBTQ+ activist Michelle Elizabeth Brown, to Ashley Wilson of U of M Students for Choice.
Speakers also included the racial justice and immigration rights activist Maria Ibarra-Frayre; Claire Ceupran and Robert Joseph, Co-Founders of Progressives at the University of Michigan; Michelle Deatrick herself.
The crowd especially responded to Brown, who spoke with passion about a wide arrange of topics that covered the platform of the march. “We have worked to build a world that our children can see. A world where every man, woman, and child has the right to health care, where access to procedures, medications and research isn’t driven by big pharmaceutical profits, but by the needs of the people. Where women are the keepers and decision makers for our bodies. A world where every person has a right to equal opportunities for employment, with a fair living wage.”
All of the speakers shared a similar line of thought; that the momentum of these events had to continue. “There is a real need for people to see a positive way forward and engage positively with the political process,” Deatrick said.