Amidst songs like “This Land Is Your Land,” and chants of “love, not hate, makes America great,” more than 200 people marched through Oakhurst Saturday morning in what they said was a show of support for human rights and equality as part of similar demonstrations taking place across the nation.
Beginning at Oakhurst Community Park around 10 a.m., demonstrators walked to the intersection of Highway 41 and Road 426, holding up peace signs to the supportive honks of many, and thumbs down from some along the way.
Rebekah Jensen, who helped organize the event, said she was overjoyed at the turnout.
“This is more people than I ever would have expected,” Jensen said. “I think hopefully this will benefit and help empower the more progressive members of our community in the need to work for human rights, and to say that we’re not alone, and we can all work together for the betterment of our country.”
Held a day after the group Oakhurst Area for Peace held what organizers called a “moment of reflection” at the intersection of highways 41 and 49, Jensen said the Women’s March was not intended to be political.
“I hope that this helps the conservative members of our community see that we are here too,” Jensen said. “And we’re not here to be against them, we’re just looking out for our fellow human beings and trying to protect everyone’s rights and equality. It’s about acceptance.”
Despite that, some participants were openly critical of Donald J. Trump, sworn in as the 45th President of the United States on Friday. A handful of signs reiterated that message with statements like “Not my president” while including pictures of his face.
“It’s a woman’s right and privilege to be able to demonstrate,” said Lynn Swope, an Ahwahnee resident. “We are here, we need health care, we need respect, we need jobs, and we need a president who respects us.”
A few chants and signs also reflected political and environmental beliefs. One chant, “water is life, life is water,” was in reference to solidarity with protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, designed to transport oil from North Dakota to Southern Illinois.
Jensen said she respected the public’s right to free speech, adding most of the signs and messages during Saturday’s event were of a positive, non-political nature.
“I never wanted this to be an anti-Trump thing, or have any negative connotations,” Jensen said. “I really wanted it to only be a positive experience for everyone and show what we want to work to protect, especially for marginalized communities that may be feeling a lot of fear right now.”
Josh Helling, who lives in El Portal, added his view that the march was meant to protect those who disagreed with it as much as its participants.
“I’d say that we’re here for those who disagree with us as much as we’re here for ourselves,” Helling said. “We’re here to protect their health care, their human and civil rights, their environment, and their future for themselves and their grandchildren.”
The event was held in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington, as hundreds of thousands of people reportedly marched in the nation’s capitol to support marginalized groups including women, minorities, the LGBTQ community, native peoples, immigrants, and refugees.
In San Francisco, the 13th Annual Walk For Life West Coast was also held Saturday. That event, per its website, was intended for “tens of thousands of our friends to proclaim that women deserve better than abortion.”
A sister Walk For Life event was not reportedly scheduled in the Mountain Area, and no locations other than San Francisco could be found on its website. The Women’s March in Washington website listed planned demonstrations across the globe.
Saturday’s march in Oakhurst dispersed around 11:30 a.m. The event remained peaceful throughout its duration.