By Heidi Simmons
After a dark, rainy inauguration in Washington D.C. and in Palm Springs, Saturday brought beautiful sunshine to the desert along with a peaceful gathering of women, men, children and pets.
“This isn’t a protest, this is to show support for women’s reproductive rights, gay and lesbian rights, minority and immigrant rights,” said Dorothy Noe of Los Angeles.
“L.A. was holding a march, but we saw on Facebook there was a gathering in Palm Springs and we wanted to attend,” said Noe. Her husband, Wilfredo, and best friend, Joanne Kamiya, coordinated their day to first ride in the Tour de Palm Springs, and then participate in the Women’s March.
“We rode twenty-eight and half miles this morning,” said Kamiya walking with her bike and friends down the closed Palm Canyon Drive. “Now we’re marching. It’s nice to be a part of this and to make a statement about human rights and the power of women.”
Along with their bicycle attire, the three Angelinos all wore handmade, bright pink hats with pointed ears – like that of a cat’s. Many of the marchers donned the same color and style of hat, which were either hand-knitted or made from simple pink fleece.
“Our hats are called ‘Pussyhats’,” said Wilfredo Noe. “We wear them because of Trump’s remark about how he ‘grabbed pussy.’ The hats mean: Don’t touch the pussy!” Wilfredo, at first, seemed hesitant to say what the hats represented, then came out directly after seeing so many women wearing the hats with pride.
“Women’s Marches” were held across the country and abroad as a way to show solidarity against President Trump and his administration’s potential to curtail the rights of women, LGBTQ, minorities and immigrants. Estimates put those attending peaceful marches around the globe Saturday at over one million.
Sister Trina McCormick from South Carolina attended with two friends from La Quinta. She did not know about the event until the day. “It was just a coincidence,” said McCormick. “I happened to be here visiting when I heard about it and we all decided to come.” McCormick believes the election was not valid. “I worry about the future of healthcare and the lack of compassion.”
The worldwide event found traction through action networks, political party sites, community resource posts and social media. The Palm Springs Women’s March was scheduled for noon beginning at Francis Stevens Park at Palm Canyon and Alejo.
After an overwhelming response from those wanting to attend in Palm Springs, officials asked organizers to cancel the march after concerns about parking, traffic issues and street closures due to the Tour de Palm Springs.
Whether attendees got the cancellation message or not, it didn’t stop nearly 1,000 people from showing up with friends, family, signs and “pussyhats.”
“It was confusing with the cancelation notices and changes,” said Colleen Hawes, a snowbird from Canada. “I just decided to be here no matter what. It’s important.” Hawes carried a neon pink sign that read “Make American Think Again.”
Dona Kubina, 72, joined the group and marched with a sign that had pictures of her daughter, Kaelani, working with kids in Swaziland.
“Women’s issues matter,” said Kubina, who lives in Beaumont. “My daughter is 26 years old and in the Peace Corp. She’s not allowed to get political, so I thought I should be here for her.”
Rosa Kooyman, her cousin and puppy came from Yucca to participate. “Today is about unity,” she said. “We won’t stand for the disrespect of others. We want the world to know we won’t be a part of that. We care about people and we’re here to do something bigger and better.”
Some in attendance hoped that President Obamas and his family might join the march.
“The Obamas began as activists,” said Sandy Lauer a retired teacher from La Quinta. “Be great to show them how much we appreciate his service and that we intend to carry on his legacy in a safe and responsible manner.”
With the Obamas in Rancho Mirage, they were on the minds of many Palm Springs’ marchers. Some carried signs with Michelle Obama flexing her bicep a la the iconic “Rosy the Riveter poster.”
“We were all down in the dumps yesterday,” said Phyllis Textor, a retired high school principal. “Today, it feels good to be with people who feel the same way and to be reminded to speak out and get our power back.”
Gathered around the park’s Rainmaker Fountain, City Councilmembers Geoff Kors, Ginny Foat and J.R. Roberts made the crowd feel welcome. They urged those in attendance to get involved, campaign, vote, and to call representatives about issues. When the crowd cheered, there was a sense of overarching love, compassion, support, empowerment and hope.
Neither flooded roads, cyclists, parking challenges nor cancellation notices hampered the good spirit, cheer and camaraderie of those who peacefully gathered and marched.