Photo by Maura Callahan

Thousands of people filled the War Memorial Plaza Saturday morning and into the afternoon for a rally marking the anniversary of the inaugural Women’s March in Washington D.C.

The crowd was a mix of pink pussy hats dusted off from 2017, families with children carrying hand-scribbled signs, men wearing Bernie Sanders t-shirts, and stalwart local activists including members of the People’s Power Assembly, many of whom carried signs calling attention to the 2016 police killing of Baltimore County woman Korryn Gaines. Another large sign dominated the scene, at the first march under the supervision of new Baltimore City Police Commissioner Darryl DeSousa: “Give new Police Comm DeSousa a Life line: Audit BPD finances/ Change Police Bill of Rights/ Strengthen Civilian Board/ Jail time for police crimes.”

The long list of speakers included government officials, ministers, activists, and students, plus musical performances from Priddy Music Academy, Choir Kadesh, Park School acapella group Eightnotes, and former “The Voice” contestant and now mayor-appointed City youth program consultant Davon Fleming.

Among the first to speak, Mayor Catherine Pugh praised the #MeToo movement and went down a list of women leading City departments. The mayor was followed by Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, taking a moment from the ongoing standstill in Washington to encourage the crowd to get to the polls in November. State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby addressed the crowd as “warrior women” and declared women “the foundation of our communities.” Health Commissioner Leana Wen emphasized the importance of preserving the Affordable Care Act—“today, I march for my patients”—and quoted Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s rallying cry from the Boston Women’s March in 2017: “We can whimper, we can whine, or we can fight back.”

More rousing though were speeches from local activists and community members. A recurring theme among the speeches was the importance of centering women of color in these movements, and protecting immigrants in the face of Trump’s threats.

“The put an expiration date on my family,” said Maricruz Abarca of CASA de Maryland.

Ava Pipitone,  executive director of the Baltimore Transgender Alliance and member of the event’s steering committee, demanded that we “not anchor our womenhood to the genitals of cis women.” Then Pipitone reminded the crowd that “we have been marching since before the queens of Stonewall refused to stop, since before Martin Luther King was assassinated—we had the first Baltimore Uprising in 1968—since before misogyny was elected into the office of the president; and remember, this movement is not a reaction to whoever that president may be, this movement has been happening and we need to upgrade our language from reaction to collective action.”

The last few scheduled speakers did not get to speak as the program ran long and large sections of the crowd began marching ahead. Chants included “we need a leader, not a creepy tweeter,” “black lives matter,” and “my body, my choice.” Flowing down Commerce Street and turning on Pratt, the march ended soon after a short distance away at McKeldin Square, where dancing broke out to Beyoncé’s ‘Run the World (Girls)’ played over speakers. Poets Meccamorphosis and Lady Brion delivered energizing spoken word performances.

Brion also briefly criticized the event’s placement of men at the microphone.

“[Women] don’t need you to speak for them because you don’t know their struggle more than they know their own struggle,” she said.

Following the last speaker, the crowd dissipated quickly, but a few lingered to keep dancing.

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