On January 21, 2017, I joined the Women’s March on Jacksonville, a sister march to the main Women’s March on Washington. Since Jacksonville is traditionally considered to be a conservative city, the organizers expected around 50-100 people. They got far more.
The event began at Evergreen Cemetery to pay tribute to Mary Nolan, a Jacksonville suffragette, at her grave site. She is known for her powerful statement, “I am guilty if there is any guilt in a demand for freedom. The path to the cemetery was crowded with cars, making for a long walk to the entrance. This was the first sign that it would be bigger than anticipated. People from all around the greater Jacksonville area gathered to pay their respects in memory of decades long past when voting was limited only to white men.
We moved to the Jacksonville Landing, where crowd became even bigger, to the point where its size was difficult to determine because the two ends of the march weren’t visible to one another. Many had brought homemade signs declaring their support for protecting women’s rights, preserving LGBT equality, ending racism, ending corporate dominance, and making healthcare a right instead of a privilege. The focus was on women, but so many other causes were represented.
Although only the front of the crowd could hear it, I decided to make an announcement at this point:
That’s right—I’m running for the House of Representatives in Florida’s 4th Congressional District. This district has belonged to Republicans for too long. The truth is that Jacksonville does have a strong progressive presence, but we’ve continuously been overlooked by both the media and the major parties. On the other hand, I have lived in this area, analyzed it, and determined that, although it’s a longshot, it’s one worth undertaking. I’m determined to be the one responsible for flipping Duval County.
From the Landing, we marched to the Chamber of Commerce, sending the message that big business should not be allowed to continue trampling over the lives of the common people. The billionaire class should not be allowed to continue enriching themselves while shortchanging pay for employees, passing on costs to everyone else, and poisoning the land, air, water. Trump, despite promising to “drain the swamp,” has instead dumped toxic waste into it by stacking his cabinet with the worst examples of millionaires and billionaires who benefit from a political system rigged in their favor. He has also promised to enact trickle-down policies more extreme than Reagan’s even though trickle-down does nothing to “create jobs.” Trump’s policies are good for people like him and no one else.
Those of us toward the front marched back to the Landing, but more people were still marching to the Chamber of Commerce. The line was endless. After stopping at Jacksonville’s iconic Andrew Jackson statue, many of us decided to continue marching to historic Hemming Park, which sits right in front of City Hall. The Jacksonville City Council is, for the third time, considering an LGBT-inclusive Human Rights Ordinance, which would add non-discrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity to those the city already has for race, religion, sex, and other categories. Many of those who voted for Trump are among the religious extremists who have fought non-discrimination protections using the same tired arguments of “men in women’s bathrooms” and “religious persecution.” Much like their orange savior, they make up whatever lie suits their purpose and have used it to successfully stop non-discrimination in Jacksonville twice.
We continued to the Duval County Courthouse, where we formed a huge circle. From here, people were invited to speak using a “human megaphone”—a crowd repeating whatever the speakers said. I made another announcement of my candidacy while others shared their stories of sexually assault, fear for their or their children’s future, attacks and abuse by Trump supporters, their frustrations about climate change, plans for organizing and involvement, and other matters. The emotions were mixed. No one could stomach the idea of Trump being president, but the energy of hope spread around throughout the crowd. Together, we could fight.
Some of those I know who worked with the Hillary Clinton campaign campaigned that all these marchers should have been volunteering with the Hillary campaign. This is misguided. Hillary was a vanilla candidate, as especially shown with her choice of Tim Kaine as a running mate. The Democratic National Committee also acted unethically and arrogantly toward Bernie Sanders and his supporters, purporting a narrative of certainty for Hillary that failed to energize people. The progressive base is tired of being apologetic to corporations and their corrupting influence. Hillary and her campaign refused to acknowledge what was right in front of them.
Did the Women’s March solve anything? No. It’s only the beginning of the resistance of the Trumpist regime.