Samantha Monckton brushed tears from her eyes as 15,000 people left Jack Poole Plaza to march the streets of downtown Vancouver.
Monckton, along with five other women, including electrician Lisa Langevin, organized Saturday’s Vancouver Women’s March in support of the Women’s March on Washington, D.C. in protest of U.S. President Donald Trump’s view on women’s rights.
“It’s this song,” Monckton said as First Nations people sang and drummed a women’s warrior song. “It gets me every time I hear it.”
Organizers for Vancouver’s march started a Facebook page to get an idea of the numbers. Friday, five thousand said they planned to attend. Saturday, the numbers were three times that. Toronto’s Women’s March experienced a similar surge with a turnout of 60,000 when 10,000 was expected. It was the same story in Washington, where an estimate 500,000 turned out, more than double the estimate.
“I am overwhelmed by the response,” Monckton said. “This is the most colourful, rainbow, family-happy event I have ever seen. But it’s all for good reasons, women’s rights and human rights. And obviously, we’re not going to be going away anytime soon.”
The Vancouver Women’s March was only formally organized through Washington Women’s March two weeks ago by the five locals, none of whom previously knew one another.
“Two weeks ago it was nothing,” said Monckton. “And all of a sudden through some weird synergy thing, all of us contacted the main guys and asked if they had anybody working on Vancouver. They’re like, ‘Nope’ so we said, ‘We’re on it!’”
Signs of all kinds punctuated the crowd. They ranged from the popular “Proud Nasty Woman” and “Smash the Patriarchy” to “Don’t Give Kevin O’Leary Any Ideas” and “Too Gay Too Old Too Mouthy To Go Back.” One person wore a banana suit and held the sign “Strength in Bunches” while other demonstrators, such as Judy Alton, held signs that screamed, “I Can’t Believe I’m Still Protesting This Shit.”
“I did this for Vietnam and I’m back here after all these years,” said Alton, aged 60. “I thought we were done, you know? I have children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren and it is terrifying to see this world they’re going to grow up in. It’s not only in America, you’re hearing about this happening in Europe as well, this right-wing… I don’t even know what to call it… hatred!”
The vocal crowd, many in knitted, pink “pussy hats” surged down West Georgia Street and stopped in front of the Trump Tower. Marchers booed the sparkling ‘Trump” sign, unveiled only just days before, while others gave it the one-fingered salute. A man wearing a “Hillary For Prison 2016” T-shirt stood outside the building with a sign that read, “Trump Has Feelings Too” (writer’s note: punctuation and protest signs rarely mix).
“I’m just pointing out that he’s a human being, that’s all,” he said before briefly being detained by police after somebody noticed he has a woodworking knife in a sheath on his belt.
There was 600 Women’s Marches held around the world the day after Trump’s inauguration. In addition to a message of protest, they also held a message of hope for those like Erica Halvorsen and her six-year-old daughter, Dorothy Rohan.
“It’s the only thing we can do,” said Halvorsen. “What’s going on makes you feel powerless so something like this makes you feel not so powerless. Dorothy was very, very scared of Trump all through the run-up to the election so I wanted to show her: ‘Look at all the people who are saying women are strong.’”