Strength in numbers: Gresham-area residents among throng at women's rights march
Gresham was well-represented in the Portland Women's March that drew more than 70,000 people to downtown Portland on a cold, rainy Saturday afternoon.
"It was amazing," said Gresham resident Barbara Solomon, 63, who marched with her husband and another Gresham couple. "There was so much love, so much joy. It was so validating."
Gresham's representative to the Oregon Legislature, Carla Piluso, D-District 50, joined other politicians who also marched Saturday, Jan. 21, the day after the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States.
"It truly felt like magic to me," Piluso said. "You were in a crowd of people and everyone was your friend. It was such a positive atmosphere."
That feeling was echoed by many marchers and evident in photographs of grinning Portland police officers hugging demonstrators and good-naturedly donning the bright pink hats with cat ears that were worn by marchers worldwide.
Cynthia Rauscher, a member of the Gresham area American Association of University Women and a retired teacher, concurred. "It was very peaceful. People were kind to each other."
The Women's March was among the largest public demonstrations in Portland history, and each marcher had their own reasons for joining in. Solomon was drawn to the march because "this person won the electoral vote, but I don't believe he is representative of what our country stands for." She said his "vulgarity is appalling," in direct reference to President Trump and poorly-received comments and proclamations he made before, during and after the 2016 presidential campaign.
Solomon warned, "We are going to be very carefully watching what President Trump does in his tenure."
Solomon said she marched as "a general show of support for everybody who is suffering today." An acupuncturist and registered nurse, she said, "It's time for people to come together and find our voice and reengage in the process."
Rauscher emphasized that she and her contingent from the AAUW were not protesting President Trump, but standing up for issues that mattered to them such as equal pay and affordable health care.
"All these things are at stake all of a sudden and we worked hard to make progress and don't want to lose ground," Rauscher said.
Piluso said, "I have been very fortunate, as a woman, to do a lot of firsts in my career, and I want to make sure we can pass that on to the next generation."
Piluso had planned to march with a group of Oregon women veterans, but she said because of the immense size of the crowd, they just couldn't all meet up as planned.
Organizers estimated 100,000 people attended the march, though the Portland Fire Bureau put the total at 70,000.
Gresham residents and the rest of the throng gathered on a wet afternoon in Tom McCall Waterfront Park for the march that was part of a global movement. Hundreds of thousands of people marched in 300 cities across the nation, and 60 marches in 40 countries.
An estimated 500,000 showed up for the march in Washington, D.C.
Traffic was backed up on Interstate 5 northbound getting into the city an hour before the rally began. Portland police blocked traffic on Southwest Naito Parkway near Waterfront Park and the Morrison Bridge, ground zero for the rally.
Full-to-overflowing TriMet MAX trains and buses rolled into the city, bringing hundreds of people who planned to march.
"Our train was packed," Rauscher said. "I've never seen MAX like that."
The rally included an hour of speeches and then a nearly two-mile march through downtown. Portland police said so many people attended the event that the front of the march wound through the 44-block route and returned to Waterfront Park before the end of the march had moved.
The peaceful, festive atmosphere was a contrast to protests the previous night where pepper spray and flash grenades were used and arrests were made.
PDX Trans Pride, Planned Parenthood and Oregon National Organization for Women, the rally's sponsors, said the rally and march were not an "Anti-Trump" event, but a reaction to the election of Donald Trump, and some of the politics that emerged in the heated 2016 presidential race.
So many people attended the Women's March that it was impossible for everyone to see or hear speakers on the stage south of the Morrison Bridge. At 1:15 p.m., the official start time of the march, thousands were still crammed motionless in Waterfront Park.
On Southwest Fourth Avenue, the return street of the route, a steady stream of people with pink hats, drums and colorful signs shouted chants for two hours. Signs included "nasty woman against bigotry," "women's rights are human rights," and simple slogans such as "peace" and "for my daughters," held by a woman toting a toddler. The marchers chanted a variety of slogans including, "This is what democracy looks like," an often-heard slogan at demonstrations.
Portland also sent messages around the world. Positive red, white and blue yard signs and flags created by the group Nasty Women Get S--t Done PDX were spotted at marches all around the United States and one even in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Piluso and the others are optimistic.
"We're going to be OK. We're going to get through this," she said.
And Solomon even sees a bright silver lining in the election of President Trump.
"The people have found their power, and we have Donald Trump to thank for it," she said.
Pamplin Media Group reporters Lyndsey Hewitt and Shasta Kearns Moore contributed to this story.