Thousands pack Cleveland Public Square for Women’s March

Women gathered in Cleveland to protest Donald Trump’s inauguration and voice support for women’s and human rights at the Cleveland Women’s March on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. Cities all around the country and the world held marches of their own in solidarity.

Andrew Atkins

The crowd of 15,000 roared, voices echoing through the city as demonstrators poured into the streets of Cleveland as part of a Women’s March Saturday.

Women’sMarchCLE on Vimeo. Video by Lydia Taylor.

Handmade signs, cat ears and smiles were the norm of the crowd. Some signs read “United we stand,” and others read “Make America think again.” The message was clear: demonstrators demanded to be heard.

Saturday’s march in Cleveland was one of hundreds across the globe responding to Donald Trump’s inauguration as 45th president of the United States.

The Facebook page for the event stated that about 6,000 people were planning on attending. The page itself read “Children, partners, men … all are welcome! This is a non-partisan event in support of women’s right (sic), justice, and unity.”

One volunteer with the march, Jake Spiegler, said he got involved because it felt right.

“The milk’s already spilled and it’s time to start cleaning that up,” he said. “It’s not about being violent; It’s about coming together.”

Demonstrators began filling Public Square as early as 9:30 a.m. Music played and several people gave speeches, including Rep. Nickie Antonio of Ohio House District 13.

“Women know that their lives are at stake and their rights are on the line,” she said. “What we need to do now is work in coalition with all the people who have been maligned.”

Concern was also a common element for those who attended, including former teacher and Lakewood resident Joanne Heinert.

“I’m here today because I do not want us to lose the rights that have defined all human beings as equal,” she said. “You can’t just be against something. You have to be for something good.”

Kent State alumna and Cleveland resident Diane Kolosionek said she was scared.

“I realize now that we have to fight for the rights that we took for granted,” she said.

The massive crowd shifted into motion at about 11 a.m., moving onto Ontario Street, turning onto Saint Claire Avenue, then onto East 9th street and returning to Public Square via Superior Avenue.

Demonstrators chanted phrases like “I’m strong, I’m loud, I make my sisters proud,” and “this is what democracy looks like” as they walked.

To give some context to the size of the crowd, the front of the march crossed 6th street onto Superior avenue while the tail end of the march crossed 6th Street on Saint Claire Avenue.

Some drivers passing the parade honked, rolling down their windows and shouting their support. The crowd erupted into cheers in response.

Participant Cynthy Bailey of Mantua said she attended the march because she didn’t like Trump.

“I think he’s a danger to this country and I don’t want to live in fear,” she said. “I think he’s a master of manipulation.”

Shalida Dobbins of Cleveland said the Trump presidency means the nation is “going back in time.”

Lakewood resident and teacher Drew Goddard took it upon himself to share “love” with his sons Zion and Zaire. The trio walked around and passed out stickers in the shape of hearts.

“Everybody needs equal rights,” he said. “I want to teach my children that even if we’re not part of a group that’s being oppressed, it’s still important.”

If Newbury resident and Kent State alumni Frank McGill had the chance to speak to Trump, he said he’d say “You gotta be kidding me.”

“I hope it’s not a bunch of butting heads,” he said about the presidency.

A number of participants said the next step is staying involved.

“Whenever I see something that isn’t right, I’ll use my voice,” Goddard said.

Mentor resident Sarah Eppink said she’s made several donations to organizations she supports.

“You can’t just march,” she said. “I believe our country is in crisis. It’s no longer about being anti-Trump. It’s about being pro-change … I’m going to continue to advocate. I’m going to continue to volunteer.”

Bailey shared similar sentiments.

“Continue with the cause,” she said. “Continue fighting any way I can.”

Andrew Atkins is an assigning editor, contact him at [email protected]

Lydia Taylor and Angelo Angel contributed to this story, contact them at [email protected] and [email protected].