Hanna Crowley/Mustang News

Women’s March Facebook event indicated more than 5,700 people registered for the event.

The actual turnout far exceeded that number. According to Dawn Addis, one of five organizers of the march, the number was between 8,000 and 10,000.

“I am absolutely overjoyed by how many people came out,” Addis said. “I didn’t plan for this many people. I thought I’d be lucky to get a couple hundred.”

YouTube video

The Women’s March began at 9 a.m. Saturday with an opening ceremony of singers, poets and speakers, who all delivered empowering messages on women’s rights and equality among all races, genders, religions and sexualities in
the nation.

Following the ceremony, the crowd marched the blocked off route. They began at Mitchell Park and traveled down Pismo Street, turning on Broad Street and returning to the park near Higuera Street. San Luis Obispo County Police officers watched from the sidewalks, ensuring all participants were safe and that no one was hurt. Officials say no arrests were made during the protest.

The San Luis Obispo’s Women’s March is one of many that were organized across the world, from Washington, D.C. to Kenya. While the name of the gathering focuses on women, the event welcomed anyone interested in advocating for human and civil rights. Participants marched for a variety of reasons.

“Living in America, I’m scared to walk to my car at night when there’s people who have very negative views against my religion and think that a president can justify their actions against me,” civil engineering senior and march participant
Alian Ali said.

Some individuals marched in opposition to President Donald Trump’s proposed policies. Trump’s promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which he began to put into action on Friday, was the focus of many marchers’ concerns.

“I’m afraid I’m going to go into a doctor’s visit and they’re going to say, ‘Sorry sir, we don’t honor that anymore,’” Nipomo resident Michael Stephens said. “That would be devastating.”

The Affordable Care Act has provided roughly 18 million Americans with access to health care since its enactment in 2010.

Other participants were focused on different issues. With the web page concerning LGBTQ rights removed from the White House website, one resident is concerned for the future of
that community.

“I’ve been bisexual all my life, and I’ve only been comfortable with being out for the past four to five years, and I’m forty-four years old now, so that makes me very concerned for the LGTBQ community,” Morro Bay resident Heather Smith said.

Under the Obama administration, the LGBTQ community gained new protections through laws such as the Hate Crimes and Prevention law, which expanded the definition of a hate crime to include attacks on a person’s actual or perceived sexuality, according to White
House archives.

Many participants of the march carried signs featuring phrases such as, “Climate change is real,” “My body, my rights,” and “Build bridges, not walls.”

Trump’s plan to build a wall along the Mexico-America border, which was a key part of his campaign, was also an area of concern for
some marchers.

“Walls are designed to keep people in as well as they keep people out, and that is not what the foundation of this country has been built upon,” Rev. Heather Branton of the Community Church of Atascadero said.

Branton called for better ways to deal with immigration. And she’s not alone.

Paso Robles resident Consuelo Baratta, who helps Spanish-speaking families to communicate with teachers, also came out to support immigrants. In her career, she frequently interacts with
undocumented families.

“They’ve expressed to me they’re afraid they’ll be separated from their children and the parents might be deported. They’re in a state of fear,” Baratta said.

After the march concluded, much of the crowd remained in Mitchell Park to listen to music and explore the tents set up by local community organizations. Some groups represented included AIDS/HIV service organization Access Support Network, the Latino Outreach Council, the San Luis Obispo Democratic Party and the National Organization for Women, among others.

The tents provided resources for attendees, and a support network.

“We’re here so people know that they can join us and this way, they don’t have to form their own group,” Pat Renshaw, secretary of San Luis Obispo’s National Organization for Women chapter, said.

The Women’s March in San Luis Obispo raised over $28,000, which will help to cover march costs, including street closure, liability insurance, port-a-potties and extra police protection required for the event. A majority of the money was raised through donations made on kind.fund, a crowdfunding website. Other donations were made offline. As of Sunday evening, 675 people donated on the website.

After the march costs are covered, the remainder will be donated to Rise SLO, an organization that serves victims of domestic abuse and violence, Addis said.

She concluded by saying that “the administration works for us. We need to come together and say, ‘these are our expectations, and we need to do it in such a loud and resounding way that we can no longer
be ignored.”’

Correction:  A previous version of this article said there were around 9,000 people at the Women’s March. It has been corrected to say around 8,000 to 10,000. A previous version also stated that all of the donations were made online. It has been corrected to say that a majority were made online, with some being made offline. The article also stated that donations would help to cover the bike valet. Bike SLO ended up donating their services to the march. It has been updated to exclude bike services from the costs donations cover. 

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