About 1,000 join 4th annual Women’s March in downtown Santa Rosa

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Sporting pink kitty hats and carrying placards, an estimated 1,000 high-spirited women of all ages gathered on Old Courthouse Square Saturday morning to push for immigration reform, gun control and women’s rights during the fourth annual Women’s March in Santa Rosa.

The event, the only women’s march held in Sonoma County this year, took place alongside more than 250 similar marches held across Northern California and the nation, including a demonstration in Washington, D.C. expected to draw more than 25,000 people.

The Santa Rosa rally, followed by a march, kicked off at 10 a.m. on the square. In addition to the vibrant crowd, there were two dozen booths manned by nonprofit, grassroots and political groups, from the Peace & Justice Center to the presidential campaigns of Democrats Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg.

A wide range of political posters dotted the crowd — “History has its eyes on you” and “End of an Error” — reflecting a tidal of wave of issues that have ballooned beyond women’s rights to encompass impeachment, the environment and other pressing concerns. Veteran protesters Gerrit and Mary Blom of Santa Rosa held a sign, supported by an upside-down toilet plunger, that stated: “Clean the White House.”

Leslie Graves, organizer of the Santa Rosa march for the third year, said the overriding message for 2020 is to “get out and vote” during the presidential primary in March and the national election in November.

“The first women’s march was an answer and a reply to the presidential election in 2016,” Graves said of Donald Trump’s election. “This year, as we’re nearing the completion of that presidential term, we are coming out in force not only for women’s and human issues but immigration rights and climate justice and many more issues.”

Women wearing suffragette sashes marked the centennial of the 1920 passage of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote. In addition, three women dressed up in 19th-century garb to represent the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848.

“We knew we had the clothes,” said Constance Smith of Rohnert Park, “so we volunteered.”

While introducing the eight speakers on Courthouse Square, Graves pointed out that just last week, the Equal Rights Amendment was ratified by the 38th state — Virginia — opening the possibility the 28th amendment may be passed in 2020.

“The suffrage women are honoring history,” Graves told the gathering. “You are making history now.”

Speakers ranged from Molly Murphy MacGregor, co-founder of the National Women’s History Project, to Jacquelynne Ocaña, a Mexican-American licensed fiduciary who recently sought appointment to an open seat on the Santa Rosa City Council with 19 other candidates. She was not chosen.

“Politics is power, and the system fights to protect itself,” Ocaña said. “We have to show up like this ... to defeat the old boys’ network. I look forward to being with you on the front lines.”

Three young women spoke in support of youth empowerment, immigrants’ rights, climate change and gun control.

“We cannot sit passively by,” said 13-year-old Noa Polston Schwartz, founder of Teach Climate and Redefine It. “We are taking a stand on gun control because it costs us our lives.”

Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Summer Gloeckner estimated there were about 1,000 people gathered at Courthouse Square during the height of the rally.

“It resembles last year ... so it’s still a great turnout,” she said. “The weather held up, and people are chilly, but everyone is enjoying it.”

The rally ended with a leisurely, quarter-mile march along closed portions of 3rd, D and Fourth streets adjacent to the square.

In addition to children and dogs, the march included many husbands and fathers who marched with their wives and daughters.

“My two sisters are both at the D.C. march, my niece is in Oakland, and Olivia, my daughter, and I are here,” said Greg Spaulding, a Santa Rosa attorney and justice advocate. “I think it’s important for men in general (to support women), but especially for men to care about their daughters.”

You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or

On Twitter @dianepete56.

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