People of all ages came out the fourth annual St. Louis Women’s March to support women’s rights, despite the cold. The theme of the 2020 event was ‘be counted’ which encouraged attendees to vote in upcoming elections.
Bree Williams, a student from St. Charles Community College, marched through Market Street on Jan. 18 with a female symbol painted on her cheek and a pansexual pride flag in her hand. As she walked through the cold streets, she chanted alongside thousands of others.
“It’s surreal to be walking down the streets of St. Louis while chanting with so many wonderful people,” Williams said. “I feel on top of the world. It’s empowering.”
The St. Louis Women’s March (STL Women’s March) is held yearly. This was the fourth march organized locally. STL Women’s March is separate from the National Women’s March that takes place in cities like Washington D.C. or New York City. The locally organized and funded march focuses on issues that affect the St. Louis community.
Williams had never attended a Women’s March before but had attended seven other protests in the past year. She realized the STL Women’s March was something she wanted to be a part of after she attended the eight-week heartbeat bill protests last year.
“No matter what you believe in, you can fit in here,” Williams said, “The thing is, we are all here to support women’s rights. There are so many issues that are encompassed here.”
Williams led chants throughout the march, which included messages about democracy, trans rights and abortion rights. When Williams lost her voice, others stepped in to fill the silence. The crowd only fell silent while listening for the next chant to start.
“I wanted to come here today to see what other issues have come up that I would like to help be a part of resolving.” Williams said, “I felt like it was something I had to do.”
Williams was not the only one who felt the call to action. There were mothers with their children, fathers with their sons, college students, and elderly women and men. There were signs that decorated walkers and strollers.
Children bundled up in gloves and hats carried signs half their size. One young girl carried a sign she had written which said, “Kids do not belong in cages,” next to her mom’s “Bee Kind” sign that highlighted climate change.
In opposition to the STL Women’s March participants, counter-protesters stood on the sidelines and advocated against abortion and promoted religiously charged messages. These counter-protesters were heavily outnumbered.
Each year, the march adopts a theme. Last year, the theme was truth. This year, the theme was to act and ‘Be Counted’. This led to the organizers of the march focusing heavily on registering people to vote in the upcoming elections.
The beginning of the event also had speakers emphasize the organizers’ message. Planned Parenthood’s Missouri president Yamelsie Rodriguez and St. Louis Surge Basketball’s owner Khalia Collier stressed the importance of what they called “voting your voice.”
Students can register to vote at websites such as Rock the Vote or Headcount. If unsure, students can check to see if they are registered online on the Missouri Secretary of State’s website.
“You cannot be on the sidelines, you cannot be waiting,” Collier said. “We need you to have your voice heard. We can’t quit.”
As the protest came to an end at the Gateway Arch, the crowd gathered to take photos. Williams posed with her boyfriend and friend as a group of young girls from the crowd approached her. They let Williams know how fun she had made the march. Williams hugged them individually. One of the teens she had inspired began tearing up.
“It made me feel absolutely amazing,” Williams said. “It’s good to know that I inspired young minds to stand up for what they believe in.”