As Angela Ryan and her group of friends walked toward Sonoma Plaza on Jan. 21, 2017, preparing to take part in the Sonoma Valley Women’s March, she was excited but also feeling a little out of place.
It wasn’t her first foray into political protest, but it was her first demonstration in her hometown, after spending almost a decade in the Midwest and New York City.
But like millions of others across the country that day, Ryan, 36, with her “The Future is Female” sign in hand, felt compelled to join the national outpouring — an impassioned response to the election of President Donald Trump and a rallying cry to resist his administration’s agenda.
“We thought there would be maybe a couple hundred people there, and we showed up and it was this enormous demonstration — thousands of people,” she said. “It was just so emboldening, and you knew you weren’t alone in the despair from the election. You knew this was a moment where people were going to not give up and not sit down and not passively accept what had just happened.”
Trump enters the second year of his presidency with an approval rating below 40 percent, and confronting California as both foil to his most disputed policies and fount of political resistance to his administration and party.
Ryan, executive director of the Petaluma Museum Association, has remained active in that movement and assumed a leadership role in the Jan. 20 march this year that will commemorate last year’s nationwide protest.
“It made me feel like I did belong here,” she said. “Everybody says that we live in a bubble, but that day I couldn’t have been happier to be in that bubble. It made me feel like I was part of something and that my town was going to be on the right side of history. It made me really happy to be a Sonoman.”
Three such gatherings are happening across Sonoma County on Jan. 20. In Sebastopol, marchers will gather at the town square at noon. Santa Rosans will meet at Old Courthouse Square for a rally from 10 to 11:30 a.m., a last-minute gathering pulled together by community activists when they realized nothing had been planned for Sonoma County’s largest city.
“I think it’s important that we keep fighting and we keep using our voices and joining together,” said Alisse Cottle, who owns Brew, the popular Santa Rosa beer-and-coffee shop, and whose Facebook post lamenting the lack of a Santa Rosa offering sparked the event’s organization.
Last year’s downtown march drew more than 5,000 people, making it one of the largest political rallies in modern city history.
“It feels like Santa Rosa would have missed something if we didn’t do something,” Cottle said.
The Facebook event, created by Cottle and co-organizer Leslie Graves, shows more than 1,500 people interested in attending.
The tone of this year’s marches is meant to highlight potentially pivotal mid-term elections in November, said Karen D’Or, founder of the group Indivisible Sonoma County, which seeks to connect people with political platforms to fight for equality and justice.
Last year’s inauguration weekend marches had a “Hear our voice” focus, D’Or said, while this year the theme is “Hear our vote.”