Thousands of people marched through uptown Charlotte on Saturday to show their support for a variety of social and political causes, especially women’s rights.
The Women’s March on Charlotte drew an estimated 10,000 people and came a day after Donald Trump was inaugurated as the nation’s 45th president. Similar marches where held in cities across the globe, including a national march in Washington, D.C.
Here are eight people we met at the Charlotte rally.
‘The right side of history’
Amber Rhyne stood with her husband and son next to the light rail line holding a sign that said “The only minority destroying America is the rich.”
“I want to be on the right side of history,” said the stay-at-home mom from Lincoln County. “I want to be on the side where we might actually make something happen.”
She nods toward Gavin, her young son.
“I want to make sure that he might not have to do this his entire life. I think human rights are rights for everyone, and I am so proud to live in a community that has this many people coming out.”
Rhyan said she and her husband Kevin want to raise their son to respect women.
She said she was a “huge Bernie (Sanders) fan” during last year’s Democratic primaries but switched her supported once Hillary Clinton won the nomination.
“Living blue in a red state,” she said.
For Rhyan, attending the march was never a question.
“We’re huge political people,” she said. “We vote in primaries. I knew from Day One we would be here.”
Corey Johnson, who works in the mental health field, attended the march with his 7-year-old daughter Skye – part of her ongoing lesson in civics.
“I can’t say I love my daughter and not let her know what’s really going on in the world and how it may impact her,” he said.
Johnson said he talks with his daughter frequently about world and national events.
He said he decided to attend the women’s march because of the “condition of the country right now.”
“I feel like we could do more if we could raise our vibrations and our consciousness and not let some of the darkness intrude on our thought processes to the point where we’re starting to hate and lose our humanity toward one another,” he said.
Last September, when protesters marched through uptown Charlotte after a CMPD officer shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott, Johnson said he came to “try to spread love and unity.”
Johnson said he is concerned about the kind of world his daughter will inherit.
“I don’t want her to get to a place where she feels frozen when complex things happen,” he said. “I don’t want her to lose her voice. I want her to be proactive, but in the event that something happens out of her control, I don’t want her to become frozen in silence.”
As for Skye, she thought the march was “very cool.”
A guardian of reproductive rights
Mary Frasche said she holds little hope that Donald Trump will heed the message of the countless women who marched in cities across the nation on Saturday. But, she added, members of Congress might.
“…We need to send a message to Congress that they’re up for re-election in two years, and if they don’t stand up to him, then they can be out of jobs, too,” she said.
Frasche, a Charlotte lawyer, said she’s “really concerned” about the tone of last year’s election.
“I felt it was really important to get my kids out to send a message that we won’t go back, none of us, that we — women, minorities, the LGBT community — all of us have fought long and hard for our rights.”
She recalled the “bad old days” when abortion clinics were being blockaded.
“I got up early in the morning and went out to defend those clinics,” she said. “I’m a strong supporter of women’s reproductive rights.”
Frasche, who attended the rally with her children and a friend, said the current political environment has reignited the activist in her.
“I took a long break,” she said, “but because of this election, I’m getting back in.”
Omegas perform community service
While the marchers were still assembling in First Ward Park, Dwight Baptist and a handful of his fraternity brothers from Omega Psi Phi stationed themselves in a spot along Tryon Street to begin handing out free bottles of water.
As the marchers eventually passed, the men clapped their approval and got showered with lots of love in return.
“Omega is all about giving back to the community and doing community service,” said Baptist, who works in information technology, “so we saw the need to help out in this community effort. …Every effort that can help the community is important.”
Days earlier, Baptist said, he and his fraternity brothers had been on the same street, taking part in the city’s annual MLK parade.
Baptist said he has two children, both age 10.
“Up until now, the only president they’ve ever known is Barack Obama,” he said. “To go from a man of peace and a man of inclusion to a person who doesn’t believe in inclusion and believes in separatism, I have to show them this is how you stand against that.”
Loving America’s diversity
When Bethanne Algie was asked why she attended the Charlotte rally, the retired nurse started by quoting a song from 1964.
“As Paul Simon said, ‘Silence like a cancer grows,’” she said, recalling the Simon and Garfunkel tune “Sound of Silence.”
“We can’t be silent,” she continued. “We need compassion, dignity, equality. We need freedom for all. It’s at risk, and we want to preserve it.”
She pointed to a 5-year-old boy, the son of a friend who had come with her.
“We’ve got to do this for him,” she said. “(He) needs a world where everybody’s equal, where everybody has opportunities, where everybody is included in the United States.”
Algie said her family migrated from Italy.
“This country is so strong and so diverse. In the last week we’ve gone to Lebanese restaurants, Indian restaurants, Chinese restaurants. This country is the most wonderful country because of its diversity.”
She said she decided to get involved about a year ago, when she began to hear troubling remarks coming from Trump.
“He scared me,” she said. “I’m a very calm person, and I began having night terrors.”
She called Trump “a danger to all of us in the United States.”
“I need to be part of our voice saying, ‘it’s not ok,’ and we need to squelch him, and we need to squelch that mentality.”
Two neighbors decide to get involved
The last time Vashaun Stills had marched for a political cause, the year was 1995 – the year of the Million Man March in Washington, D.C. — and she was pregnant with one of her two adult daughters. But when her neighbor, Marcia Henderson, invited her to attend the women’s march in Charlotte, she decided to accept the offer.
“As a mother of two daughters, this is definitely a good example to let them know that women have rights, and we are speaking out and marching for that” said Stills, who works in health care.
When she thinks back on the recent election, she said, her mind is flooded with thoughts: “Didn’t like some of the things I heard, of course.”
Especially some of the things said about women.
“We all have a mother,” Stills said.
Henderson, who works in human resources and doesn’t consider herself to be politically active, picked up on that theme.
“I have a mother, you have a mother, I am the mother of a daughter,” she said. “I could have stayed in bed this morning, but then I thought about all the beautiful women I know, I said, ‘uh-uh, I gotta get up.’”
In addition to Stills, Henderson invited 16 other women to attend the rally.
“This is what we do. This is who we are. We come together when things are important to us,” she said. “Look, it’s all women. It’s different races, religions. it doesn’t matter what your faith is, what your sexual orientation is, it’s just supporting woman, supporting each other, our issues. How beautiful is that?”
‘You have to speak out and do something’
Matthew Swanson and his wife drove 70 miles, from Winnsboro, S.C., to attend the Charlotte march. The retired social worker said he came to protest “basically everything Mr. Trump plans to do.”
He said he is “appalled and disgusted” by the results of the Nov. 8 election.
“You just feel like you have to speak out and do something,” he said. “And right now, this is one thing we can do.”
Swanson said he is particularly interested in health care and environmental issues, and he has gotten involved in organizations that advocate for both. He said he also recently became active in the Fairfield County Democratic Party.
“I’m a political junkie,” he said. “I follow politics closely. I always vote. I became much more involved since last summer, when the contest turned into who was in it.”
He also talked of his 18-year-old granddaughter.
“She’s in my mind in coming to this, because I’m very concerned about the direction of attitudes toward women,” he said. “Gosh, she’s the star of my world, this 18-year-old granddaughter. I don’t want her to grow up in a world where women are so dismissed and so disregarded.”