The day after the presidential inauguration, a number of Grayson County residents walked in women’s marches that were held across the country.
As part of the more than 50,000 people organizers reported marched through Austin, a group from Sherman traveled to the city early Saturday morning and met at the Texas Capitol. Randi Tanglen, a professor at Austin College, was part of that group, and she said the reason she marched was to counter some of the rhetoric spoken by the country’s leaders and also to speak up for a more inclusive society.
“I went to march because I was very concerned about the current presidential administration in our country, and what that means particularly for women but also for underrepresented groups that are a part of our diverse democracy,” Tanglen said. “Some of the rhetoric that came from the current president during the election campaign and aftermath of the election made me want to stand and speak out about wanting to be part of an inclusive and diverse nation.”
Tanglen said the atmosphere during the march was positive and upbeat. While tens of thousands of people were there, she said the crowd was patient, kind and everyone just seemed excited to be there.
In response to the marches President Donald J. Trump took to Twitter Sunday. “Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote? Celebs hurt cause badly.”
Later the president added: “Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don’t always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views.”
Pamela Pyle, a 59-year-old Denison resident, took a 7:30 a.m. charted bus from Grapevine down to Austin to join the march. She with couple of friends went on the trip because she said she didn’t want to just sit back and see what happens.
“I heard about the march right after the election — I decided right then I wanted to go, and I wanted to take part in it,” Pyle said.”
The election didn’t go the way Pyle wanted, and she said she felt deflated and powerless since that day. But after the Women’s March on Austin, her outlook has changed. She said the experience brought back a certain energy.
“I came back feeling much more confident that there might be some change coming,” Pyle said. “Because before, I questioned whether or not enough people cared enough fight the battle.”
With the notion of a women’s march, one would suspect those in attendance would be of that variety, but Pyle said it wasn’t so. She said the diversity of the event was surprising; men were nearly as numerous and the ages varied greatly. She said she saw everything from families pushing strollers to a 73-year-old woman dressed as a Suffragette. The march was more like going to a gigantic Fourth of July celebration than a protest, she said.
“Everybody thinks that we’re angry but that was not an angry bunch down there this week,” Pyle said. “It was not negative, everything was very positive, everything was very inclusive. It wasn’t a bunch of mad women running around.”
At the same time as the march in Austin, other marches were held across Texas. The Texas Tribune reported about 22,000 people marched in Houston, and a number between 3,000 and 7,000 marched in Dallas, walking though downtown, Deep Ellum and parts of East Dallas.
Laura Dapkus, a marketing consultant living in Whitewright, was among the marchers in Dallas. Her description of the event echoed what Tanglen and Pyle descried — a positive, friendly environment.
“It seemed huge; we couldn’t see the beginning, we couldn’t see the end,” Dapkus said of the crowd.
Dapkus noted that marchers were waving to police officers, and she even spotted a woman placing flowers on police vehicles. To her, the march wasn’t about protesting President Trump, but it was more about supporting women and speaking up for people who are afraid of losing rights. She said she carried a sign that read, “America is already great.”
“When people make America great again, I’m afraid they’re talking about a time it wasn’t great for everyone,” Dapkus said.
People are afraid, Dapkus said, and she wants people to take those fears seriously. She said the event showed marchers they weren’t alone, but the event wasn’t just about feeling good. She said it gave motivation for people to speak up and take action.
“I think everyone I know walked away thinking about what they could do,” Dapkus said. “It wasn’t just about having a good time.”
While marches and protests do influence change, Dapkus said it isn’t overnight. She said if people do want to make a change it starts on a local level — the school boards and city councils. She noted that these elections are often the most important because residents can see the effects.
“It’s not about bashing Trump or Republicans, it’s about preserving the rights people have now that they’re use to having and should be use to having,” Dapkus said.
Tanglen said she also went to Austin to find other people and unite with people who share her values. She noted her out-of-state siblings marched the same day in Denver, Pittsburgh and Cleveland. The event exhibited an energy surrounding a platform of issues, she said she cares about and contrasts language from certain leaders.
“A whole generation of activists was born and reactivated as a result of these marches, and this energy will certainly move forward into political action and mobilization,” Tanglen said.