HARTFORD — An estimated 10,000 people congregated on the steps of the Connecticut State Capitol this Saturday for the Women’s March, one of hundreds of coordinated marches in cities worldwide against the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
“You are the heroes,” Hilda Santiago, the Democrat state representative for the 84th district, told the crowd, which began to assemble just before noon. “Take ownership of your future.”
Despite the protest’s name, there was no actual marching at the event. Instead, community and government leaders took turns giving speeches, and local art groups performed in front of a cheering crowd. Attendees from around the Nutmeg State carried homemade signs with messages such as “We Are Not ‘Locker Room’ Talk,” “Keep Your Tiny Hands Off My Rights” and “A Woman’s Place is in the Resistance.”
Gov. Dannel Malloy and the mayor of Hartford, Luke Bronin, spoke on Saturday, as did Democrat state Sen. Beth Bye, Assistant Director of Advocacy Unlimited Natacha Kerelejza, and Executive Director of Independence Unlimited Candace Low.
Malloy called on attendees to stand together, love one another and protect each other’s rights. He said the day marked an “expression of outrage” and told attendees to be ready to express outrage again if politicians in Trump’s administration now repeal the Affordable Care Act or deny climate change.
“America is as great as its people, and its greatest people are here today,” Malloy said in his speech.
An official decree by the governor’s office proclaiming Jan. 21, 2017, to be the Women’s March on Washington day in the state of Connecticut was announced at the event.
Other addresses highlighted topics such as women’s rights, disability rights, immigrants and LGBTQ issues. Speakers encouraged attendees to become involved in the political process, and references to civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela emerged as a theme of the event.
Sharlene Kerelejza, the executive director of Chrysalis Domestic Violence Services in Meriden, was one of five women who organized the rally. The women did not know each other prior to the march, she said, and instead met on social media after hearing about people who wanted to attend the march in Washington but could not make it to the nation’s capital.
Kerelejza said the women applied for permission to use the Hartford Capitol grounds and then planned their own march over the course of 17 days.
Several attendees said they wished the event had a better sound system, as they had trouble hearing what was happening. At various points during the event, chants of “Turn it up” erupted from the back of the crowd.
Aside from complaints about the sound system, attendees said they were pleased with the day’s events.
Julia DeRosso, a graduate student in environmental science at the University of New Haven, said she thought the rally had an impressive turnout and a positive message.
Molly Mullen ’17, a Yale undergraduate from Connecticut, attended the protest with her parents and brother and expressed similar satisfaction with the rally.
“It was great that so many people were there because there is so much that feels scary and wrong right now,” Mullen said. “I know not everyone sees this the same way I do, but it was good to see people out there standing up for women and people of color and immigrants and people who are nervous about what the next four years will bring.”
This article was updated to reflect the version that ran in print on Jan. 23.