PORTLAND, Ore. – Organizers said 100,000 people participated in the Women’s March on Portland. Its sheer size made it a historic event in the city but it was just one of many “sister marches” taking place around the globe in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington. There were 616 sister marches, with more than 2.5 million attendees estimated worldwide. In Washington D.C., 500,000 people marched.
Organizers in Portland said the march wasn't a protest against the inauguration of Donald Trump; instead, it was about trying to “unify and empower people who stand for women’s rights, human rights, immigrant rights, civil liberties, and social justice for all.”
We talked to the lead organizer, 29-year-old photographer and writer Margaret Jacobsen. She recently took over leadership of the march after the previous organizers were accused of excluding some people’s opinions, including those from people of color and people with disabilities. The local NAACP chapter decided not to sponsor the event due to the controversy.
Jacobsen explained what she hopes the Portland march will accomplish, how it’s changed under her leadership, and why the march is different from other protests in Portland.
How is the women’s march different from other Portland protests happening around Trump’s inauguration?
We don’t want to call it an “anti-Trump” protest as much as us rising up and resisting things as humans, as women.
We’re having a family event. We have about 300 volunteers helping. We’re stressing that it’s peaceful. Any type of anger that’s going to be acted out in any way is not welcome at this march. This is a permitted, produced event. It will have a different tone.
Why are people marching?
I think the fact that Trump was elected struck a lot of fear into people, and kind of a fear that we haven’t had in a while. The conversations around people and the way that our almost new president talks about women and their bodies in such a vile way that we’ve seen just be accepted. I think that’s sparked something for a lot of us in the country, because it’s such a common experience. It’s one of the common threads of knowing what that’s like – what it feels like to be sexually assaulted and having your body talked about in a way you don’t have ownership of it, but males do.
Also, a lot of us have daughters and it’s important for them to see us standing up and saying we’re going to resist this.
What was the issue with the former march leaders and do the problems still exist?
The lead organizers lived five hours away [from Portland] and they weren’t being the most cooperative with being inclusive. They didn’t think we needed to address race, or gender, or sex, or things intersecting at all. This was concerning to a lot of larger groups who were asked to sponsor [the event]. That’s why the NAACP pulled out. Planned Parenthood was also supposed to pull out and the same with Portland NOW. When I was handed the march and organizing, that was when they decided to stay.
This is a march for everybody and when we say everybody it means you get to show up as you are, with whatever you have, and stand beside people who also show up as they are and both of those things are valid.
At this point, it’s so important to remember what’s happening Friday and what’s happening on Saturday. With so many of much marching around the country, there’s not really time to dwell on it anymore.
Why are you marching?
I don’t identify as a woman – I am nonbinary. At first, I thought, ‘This isn’t a march for me.’ I started to learn more about who was leading the march in Washington and how inclusive they were being.
I’m also a victim of sexual assault and I have a daughter. My reasons for marching are so many things and they are all of the things that make me who I am. I don’t just want to march for reproductive rights. I want to march because I am a black woman and a black mother and a victim of sexual assault.
This is just the start of something and it symbolizes so much more than just marching on Saturday. It symbolizes to me committing to continually marching with all of these people to dismantle patriarchy, white supremacy, rape culture and how it’s harmful, and how we view masculinity. I’m marching for all of the black mothers who’ve had to experience their sons and daughters being murdered.
I think that knowing now that this march is so inclusive, I feel so much better, and I feel that I’m actually welcome to march and I do fit the narrative of this women’s march.
What do you hope the march will accomplish?
For one, community: Sending this message of being united and wanting to fight alongside each other wand work together toward things.
Also, the march is such a good symbol of a coming together for a common cause, and us being able to come from different places, experiences, and narratives. It’s such a good starting point. It’s a good place to inspire, to motivate, to remind people we still have a ways to go.
Particularly for Portland, I want this march to ignite something in our own city and not just a conversation about women’s rights, but around race and disabilities, around the Muslim community and Latino community, and showing a Portland that kind of gets downplayed too often.
Who is invited to the march?
Everyone’s invited. If you care about people having equal rights, if you believe in humanity and you believe anyone who’s also a human deserves what you deserve, we need you. We want you there. We can’t do this by ourselves. This is only doable if we are moving together and standing up together. You can come angry, upset, frustrated, sad, broken, happy – it’s all wanted, needed and there’s a space for it.
What are the rules of the march?
There aren’t rules, exactly, but we’re trying to remind people this is a peaceful march. While you’re allowed to be upset, there’s no violence, there’s no physical harm you should be doing. Being very respectful and self-policing and you are respecting the people around you.
Come out willing to use your voice and willing to take to the streets with us and to listen and to validate. To give space where you think space is needed. There is a priority to women and to those who live more oppressed than you are. Checking your privilege. We all have to do it – myself included.
What should participants bring and be prepared for?
People are allowed to bring bags [the Washington march discourages bags unless they’re clear]. We’re encouraging people to bring water and be prepared with umbrellas, rain coats and rain boots, because it’s going to be rainy and muddy. We’re also asking for people to bring things to donate to homeless shelters and encouraging people to bring pads and tampons to donate.
Why did you choose the route?
The city helped us choose it. We knew we wanted something that would have length to it but that people who are more slow-moving would be able to accomplish, and anyone who needs to turn around would be able to go back. We also have a lot of children.
We wanted it visible on the waterfront and also downtown, in case people want to observe or join in.
It was the best way for us to have that many people move through the city but not disrupt too much. We don’t want to cause too much disruption in the sense of people trying to get places. We’ve been sharing the route so people can be aware and know where not to drive that day.
Are you working with police on the march?
Yes, we are working with police and with the city. It’s been really great. The city was really accommodating. We meet with them the Thursday after the snowstorm on Wednesday, and we had a meeting with police on Sunday and Portland Police Chief Mike Marshman Wednesday.
I went in having a lot of ideas about policemen, just being black person, but us having permits and having talks with them made me feel better about it.
I still feel a little anxious, but that’s just where my head goes. It’s been great and we’ve been working with the fire department and we’re having our own ambulances on the street. In case anything happens we’re, prepared.