Following Donald Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration as 45th President of the United States, millions of Americans took to the streets in protest and solidarity for the Women’s March on Washington, which was held in dozens of major cities around the country.
The Oakland Women’s March began as a Facebook event in the days following the November 2016 presidential election and has grown in strength and numbers ever since. The official platform for the Women’s March on Washington – the movement that inspired Oakland and countless other cities to organize – emphasizes that the march was not to protest the current administration, but was a call to the new president to consider women’s issues when deciding on policies.
The Mills community showed up full force, with students, staff, faculty and alumnae marching together under one banner, reading “Mills College For Gender Justice.”
Though shuttles had been arranged to take Mills students directly to the march, these were unavailable early in the morning and instead, Mills paid for Uber services to and from the event for any students wishing to attend.
Mills students arrived in front of the Oakland Museum on 10th and Fallon in threes and fours, carrying homemade signs and Mills pennants, ready to march, all with their own reasons for attending.
“Liberation means no one gets left behind,” Mills student June Garzaniti said, arriving with a group of friends and classmates.
President Elizabeth Hillman attended the march as well, leading the Mills delegation with her wife and children.
“It’s great to be out here with so many people who share Mills’ values of inclusiveness, independence and empowerment,” said Hillman, who held a corner of the official Mills banner and a handmade sign reading “Strong, proud, all, Mills!”
President Hillman was not the only Mills employee to march alongside students either. Professors like Judith Bishop, Kirsten Saxton, Bula Maddison, Yulia Pinkusevich and Associate Provost Chinyere Oparah all showed up to lend their support to the movement and to Mills.
Saxton, who attended with her husband, was decked out in Mills regalia and a sign reading “Not Today, Satan.” When asked why she was marching, Saxton said only: “How could you not be?”
Mills students chanted while marching, led alternately by President Hillman, Student Activities Coordinator Sascha Brown, and Mills students as well.
An estimated 100,000 people marched across the city, down 10th Street and around Lake Merritt, to the sound of music and chanting, with marchers stopping in the street to talk, dance and chant together. In the early hours of the march, Oakland participants struggled to connect to the internet and cell phone networks, amidst reports across the country of mobile networks being overwhelmed by sheer numbers of Tweets, calls, texts and other social media activity in many cities participating in the Women’s March.
Eventually, the march spilled out into Frank Ogawa Plaza (also known as Oscar Grant Plaza, for an Oakland resident killed by police in 2009), with marchers dispersing peacefully in the late evening.
Over 2 million people participated in similar marches around the country, the number of protesters in Washington D.C. alone reportedly far surpassing the turnout for the inauguration itself.