Charlotte Women's March Fills First Ward Park For 4th Year
This year's Women United March resembled past years in many ways. There was a rally with speakers, a march through the streets of uptown Charlotte, and thousands of progressive women and their allies raising their voices and homemade signs in support of liberal causes.
Organizers said the crowd that filled most of First Ward Park on Saturday should qualify the event as a success. They had worried this year's march would suffer from "activism fatigue," coming four years into the Trump presidency and amid recent turmoil within the national Women's March organization, which the local march is not affliated with.
"We were worried about attendence, because we think people are getting tired," said Laura Meier, co-president of the Charlotte Women's Movement, "but it was packed - the energy is still there."
Some in the crowd may have been invigorated by recent developments in Washington. Just as the event began Saturday morning, lawyers for President Donald Trump were appearing before the U.S. Senate to mount his defense after three days of Democratic testimony in the ongoing impeachment trial.
Many of the posterboard signs Saturday called for impeachment, as well as an end to gerrymandering, restrictions on abortions, and attacks on immigrants.
Among this year's speakers were teenage climate activists Mary Ellis Stevens, Krissy Oliver-Mays and Ollie Ritchey, who have held weekly protests outside the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, and were joined by international climate activist Greta Thunberg in November.
"Our generation has a choice," Oliver-Mays said, "We can either blindly follow the generations before us into a world where morality takes a backseat to money, or we can chart a new course, where we rise up fueled by love and rage."
The keynote was delivered by state Representative Deb Butler of Wilmington, who made national headlines last September for her vocal tirade inside the North Carolina General Assembly as House Republicans passed the state budget while many Democrats were absent from the chamber.
"I know the future is female. I know that women will lead," Butler said, eliciting cheers, "I am proud to stand with you, Charlotte. I will not yield."
Other speakers included the Rev. Sharon Washington Risher, Brooke Adams of the Charlotte Reproductive Action Network, Alisahah J. Cole of Atrium Health, and Angelica Garnett.
The Charlotte march began in 2017 as a response to the election of President Trump. It was held on the day after Trump's inauguration in conjunction with other marches around the country, and drew tens of thousands of people into uptown Charlotte.
This year's event was co-hosted by Charlotte Women's Movement and the local chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.