Courtney Davis, Jacob Lasky and Andrew Rigney contributed to this report.
LAS VEGAS — Millions of people turned out across the country Saturday with pun-riddled, pugnacious signs and pink pussy hats to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Women’s March.
The start of the weekend served as a close to the spontaneous first chapter of the Women’s March and its orbiting movement, hastily organized after the election of Donald Trump. A day after Congress failed to get a budget deal to the White House and avoid a government shutdown, rallies—some larger than the originals in 2017—were held coast to coast. A half million people turned out in Los Angeles, 300,000 in Chicago, 200,000 in New York City.
On Sunday, the Women’s March organizers launched the next chapter of their movement in Las Vegas, and the neon jungle hosted the only way it knows how—with a diva. Cher and a host of other speakers and performers rallied the crowd of roughly 20,000 at Sam Boyd Stadium, part of a program that introduced #PowerToThePolls. The campaign, with a goal of registering one million new voters by the November midterm elections, will next head to Texas, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
After a Women’s Convention in Detroit in October, Women’s March organizers are focused on an agenda of greater inclusion and influence during the 2018 midterms. They’re targeting swing states like Nevada, and issues like immigration reform and LGBTQ rights. This year’s rally in Las Vegas included representatives from the LGBT Center of Southern Nevada, DREAM Big Las Vegas, a network for immigrant youth in the community, and the Desiree Alliance, a sex-workers advocacy organization.
As attendee Scott Fleig of Las Vegas put it: “I want everyone that comes here today to leave here more empowered and ready to fight, because, you know, grab ’em by the midterms.”
A Beautiful Perspective talked to protesters in Las Vegas and chronicled the signs, slogans and sentiments of the crowd at the #PowerToThePolls kick-off rally.
Amy Abdelsayed, Las Vegas
“I’m here with a couple friends to support the cause and to celebrate the marches across the country. The first Women’s March really energized people and brought us all together to realize that we’re all united and there’s a lot more of us than we initially thought after the election. Since then, we’ve had more women in office and more people taking a stand, even in the news and the media. Women are getting more respect, and there’s a different mentality of what’s acceptable and what’s not.”
Alex Fuller, Las Vegas
“I’m here for Advocates for Youth. I’m here to support women in general, femmes and trans people like me, women of color and women with disabilities … I think that this is such a great progressive event. I haven’t been to a Women’s March before, so I wanted to come out and see what it’s all about. There’s been a wonderful lineup of speakers, and it’s brought so much passion into me.”
Barb Graves, Springdale, UT
“I feel very passionately about what’s going on in our country right now, the threat to our democracy and all the things under our democracy: our science. The racism, the attacks on folks with disabilities, this horrible tax plan…all of these issues are of a concern for me and I think they jeopardize are democracy and our people being free.
“We have to take action. If everyone in the country comes out for the midterm elections we can make an enormous change in the policies and direction our country is going. So I’m here to advocate for getting more people registered who’ve never voted or think it doesn’t matter. I would like to help mentor and encourage young people to be a part of this process.”
Kelvin Atkinson, Las Vegas
Nevada State Senator, District 4
“I’m here to support women. Women have had a very tough year under this administration, and I’m here to show them and the thousands of people here today that we support them.
“[Since the first Women’s March] we have a lot more women, and women of color, in office. And I think the more women in office, the louder women’s voices are going to be. It’s always been said, if you want something done, do it yourself, and women are doing that. I think if you see what’s going on with Congress and women speaking out about things that have happened to them throughout the years, these things are emboldening them and making them speak up and speak out.”
Starshine Christian, Las Vegas
“I’m here to represent myself as a victim of sexual violence … and also to represent queer people, women of color and femmes who are underrepresented at these kinds of marches. I’m here on behalf of Gender Justice Nevada, an organization who works with queer youth and adults to help find housing, therapy and support.
“[Power to the Polls] means making sure that people are actually getting out on voting day. So not only registering to vote, which is very important, but also making sure that people are informed that local elections are just as important as the presidential election.”
Mary, (San Francisco), Betsy Edinger (New York), Jenna Lotkowictz (New York) and Sue Edinger (New York)
Betsy: “It’s about empowering women and feeling that empowerment when we all come together; moving forward of the issues that are important to all of us; and again the environment, education, diversity and building an inclusive society that is based on principle and not on profit.”
Sue: “It’s absolutely about saying, ‘We are not going back. Time is up!’”
Victoria Opperman, 17, Las Vegas (right)
“We’re here to support Amy Vilela. She’s running for Congress in the 4th district of Nevada, and what we’re really here for is to support women politicians. Obviously, we see that we are the future. A lot of politics that are happening right now are going to affect us when we grow up, so it’s better to fight for what we want now than to fight for it later.”
Madison Cooper, 25, Oklahoma City
“All of it is important to me. Women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, not building a wall, keeping the Net free, not hiking up taxes for the middle class, not allowing corporations to beat people. I think it’s all interrelated.”
Cher (Yes, that Cher)
“[After my marriage] It took me a long time to get back the power you see I have. Even in business I have to ask three times to get what a man already has. If you ask for it, you’re a bitch. If you don’t ask for it they’ll walk all over you. … This is the worse time in our history, and that’s why I honestly believe women are going to be the ones to fix it.”
Slivka Family (Steven Slivka, Marissa Moya, Scarlet Slivka), Las Vegas
Steven: “Women’s rights are very important to our family, and what better way to get out here to see everything we’ve been fighting for for a long time. Especially now in these polarizing and chaotic times, it’s really important to let everyone know that there’s no reason women shouldn’t be treated the same as men. As a society, we’ve gone too long treating women as inferior, and it’s not right. I’m so proud to be out here with my wife and my daughter. She’s only 9 months old, but it’s good for her to get this exposure at an early age and to see that when she grows up her voice is strong and that she deserves to be treated just as equally as her male counterparts.”
Marissa: “Everyone needs to get out and vote. The last election was my first time voting, and I think that in order for women to stay strong, we have to vote and get everything back.”
Elizabeth Presley, 49, Las Vegas
“I’m here mostly for the healthcare aspect. I think people need to vote. They need to know that healthcare is a universal right, especially those of us who have autoimmune diseases that are incurable. We need help.”
Rawky Lozano, Las Vegas
“Today, I stand with my sisters and supporters to be a voice for change, as we demand deeper social and political justice. We are uniting with enthusiasm, to show our world leaders that women are indeed powerful and ask that they revisit their commitments to advancing women’s issues. And until women, girls and all women-identifying people are represented fairly and with respect in their workplace and communities across the globe, we will stop at nothing to continue spreading a message of inclusiveness and equality for all.”
Are you registered to vote? You can’t make change in the voting booth without being registered. Plus, it’s incredibly easy. Visit vote411.org to register, and tell your friends to do the same.
As civil rights advocate and co-founder of the African-American Policy Forum Kimberlé Crenshaw told demonstrators in Las Vegas, “We can wake up and take back our future if we learn the lessons from the past. Find the inner woman and vote.”
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