This story was written by Quintin Ellison, originally published in The Sylva Herald.
As upwards of 500,000 protesters descended Saturday on the nation’s capitol, thousands more streamed into Asheville to show solidarity.
Jackson County residents marched in both cities. “I went for all people in the name of human rights. We marched to the White House – our house,” said Amy Sims, a Sylva resident who made the trip to Washington, D.C.
Organizers across the globe sought to draw attention to women’s rights, civil rights, health care, racial justice, immigration and more. The protests came one day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Marie-Line Germain, an associate professor of human resources and leadership at Western Carolina University, put together the Women’s March on Asheville. She previously served as a grassroots organizer for the Hillary Clinton campaign.
“I had not planned on putting the march together until early December,” she said. “People were coming to me wanting a place to voice their concerns.”
After she “stewed over that” for a time, Germain said, she contacted the city of Asheville to find out whether anyone had filed a permit. Finding not, she did – and found herself Western North Carolina’s protest architect.
The turnout, an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 people, she expected, based on an enthusiastic response to a Facebook site promoting the march. “What surprised me was the energy, the enthusiasm, and how happy everyone seemed to have a place to voice their concerns,” Germain said. “It gives me a lot of hope.”
Webster resident Marilyn Jody, 84, is a seasoned veteran in fighting for women’s rights. “The denigration of women during the election reminded those of us who are old of what we worked for in the 1960s, 70s and 80s,” she said. “Sexism has reared its ugly head and, in some quarters, even been approved.”
During the event, demonstrators stopped to take photos of each other’s signs. Among them: “Empowered women empower women,” “Nasty women put up a fight,” “Our rights are not up for grabs,” “Breathe in courage, send out love.”
Read WCJ’s related story about 11 WCU students and community members who attended the D.C. march.