Thousands of people marched through uptown Charlotte Saturday to raise awareness of women’s rights issues and to show solidarity with other marches across the country the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police estimated the crowd to be “at least 10,000,” Major G.M. Smith said. That’s double the number the local march organizers had expected and is among the largest protest rallies in the city. A day after the fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in September, about 1,000 people gathered uptown to protest.
Many participants were struck by Saturday’s crowd size, but CMPD said there was no way to rank it among others because they don't track march turnouts.
The Women’s March on Charlotte began at about 10 a.m. in First Ward Park and ended two hours later in Romare Bearden Park. People marched peacefully and held signs such as, “We Will Not Be Silenced,” “We The People,” “My Body Belongs 2 Me” and “BLM” for Black Lives Matter. “Love Trumps Hate,” read another.
Holding a pink “Faux President” poster, Anna Parr, 48, of Charlotte, said she marched because “I feel like my rights and the rights of other people are threatened... I wouldn’t trust him to water my plants.”
Estimates of the worldwide turnout topped 2.5 million people, McClatchy’s Washington bureau reported.
Organizers in Charlotte expected 3,000 to 5,000 demonstrators at the mile-long march. So many women, men and children showed up that police blocked some streets to traffic they hadn’t anticipated having to do before the march, Smith said.
“We shut down Tryon!” one marcher texted at 11:15 a.m.
People crammed the streets, some with children in strollers, and frequently broke out into chants of “Love, Not Hate, Makes America Great,” “No Justice, No Peace” and “My Rights, My Vote.”
Yvette Coston, 54, of Indian Trail, said she marched with son Ari Rose, 15, “because our democracy is at stake. America is going to the extreme far right with Trump and the corporate executives he’s putting in charge of our institutions. We’re not corporations. We are people.”
“Build Bridges Not Walls,” read her poster.
Michele Gasiewski, 36, said marching Saturday sent a message to the president: “You work for us, and we will hold you accountable.”
Gasiewski noted the irony of her children’s undocumented uncle having lived, worked and paid taxes in the United States for 16 years, while Trump bragged about not paying taxes. She said her children’s father fought in the military although not a citizen, while Trump avoided service.
Before they left their home in Highland Creek in northeast Charlotte for the march, Gasiewski said her daughter, Sade, 5, told the family: “We’re marching to tell Donald Trump to stop the naughtiness.”
Gina Stewart was stunned looking onto Seventh Street Saturday morning from where she works at Assorted Table Wine Shoppe, in 7th Street Public Market. At 8:30 a.m., only a trickle were outside, she said. When she looked again a half-hour later, a sea of people stretched as far as she could see.
On Friday, she began crying after a male customer told her, “All of this protesting is a joke. I don’t care.”
Saturday morning, her boss could tell she wanted to join the march. “ ‘I’m going to do you a favor,’ ” she said he told her. “Go clock out, and go where you need to be.”
As she marched, Stewart looked at the crowd around her and said: “This is the first time I’ve so strongly seen this kind of support of diversity for all people here,” said Stewart, 55, who has lived in Charlotte for 30 years. “We’re a world-class city today.”
Staff Writer Tim Funk contributed.