Former Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, told the crowd gathered in front of City Hall that Trump’s policies threaten to return America to the 1950s.
“We want our president to know we are not going back,” Woolsey said to applause. “We want to let him know we are not going to stay in our bubble in the North Bay, in Northern California, where we actually get it.”
She was one of several speakers at the Women’s March, which mirrored hundreds of demonstrations nationwide and across the globe, headlined by the massive rally in Washington, D.C.
Organizers said turnout in Santa Rosa, estimated at more than 5,000 people, was larger than expected. Attendees wearing rain jackets and toting umbrellas filled 1st Street and spilled onto Santa Rosa Avenue and D Street in the heart of the city.
“Look at this,” said organizer Anne McGivern. “People care. They wanted to be invited to show up and take action.”
The demonstration kicked off with a noon rally, followed by a march that traveled north up D Street, west on 4th Street, south on B Street and back to City Hall via 1st Street. The approximately one-hour march concluded by 2:30 p.m. and closed streets in the area were reopened not long afterward, police said.
Santa Rosa police said no disruptive incidents were reported and described the march as peaceful and well organized. Lt. John Snetsinger said the crowd was “easily more than 5,000” strong and could have numbered several thousand more. Snetsinger, who has worked at the police department more than 20 years, said it was “one of the largest free-speech events we’ve ever had in Santa Rosa.”
At the rally, Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, told a cheering crowd that the divisive rhetoric employed by Trump would not wholly redefine American identity.
“What Barack Obama said in his final days as our president is that being an American is not about where you’re from, or what you look like, what language you speak, how you worship, who you love. It’s not about any of those things. It’s about an ideal that we are all created equal, and that in this country, being an American means you can make of your life what you will,” Huffman said. “We’re going to define what it means to be an American. And we are going to get through these next four years together.”
Huffman concluded his comments by donning a pink hat with cat ears, the chosen headwear of demonstrators calling attention to Trump’s crude comments about women. In a 2005 recording that surfaced publicly in October, Trump was heard saying he could use his celebrity status to make sexual advances toward women and even “grab them by the p—y.”
Such behavior, which Trump passed off as “locker-room talk” is shameful for someone occupying the White House, marchers said.
“When women feel that it is enough, we have had enough, we come together. And we do it in a nonviolent, peaceful, loving way,” Alicia Sanchez, board president of KBBF, Santa Rosa’s bilingual public radio station, said in an interview after the rally. “We’re going to get success through unity. We are not going to go backward, but forward for women’s rights, for immigrant rights, for human rights, for black lives.”
In her speech at the rally, Sanchez said the community would come together to become “protectors” of each other while fighting injustice and bigotry.
Santa Rosa’s demonstration was a “sister march” to the Women’s March on Washington that began in the nation’s capital hours earlier. More than 500,000 people attended that rally, which was preceded by a star-studded speeches from the likes of Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California, singer and actor Janelle Monáe, actress America Ferrera, singer Alicia Keys and many others.
Throngs of demonstrators had traveled from far away for the rally, including Santa Rosa resident Ellen Bowen, who was attending her first political protest.
“It was like being a sardine,” she said of the crowd. “But it was also really heartening and exhilarating to see so many people that are of kindred minds and interesting to read all of the different kinds of signs.”
In the Bay Area and on the North Coast, rallies also took place in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Sonoma, Napa Valley, Fort Bragg and Ukiah.
The signs carried in Santa Rosa read “Not my president,” “Keep the immigrants / deport Trump,” “Women’s rights are human rights,” “We the people means all of us” and “Make America smart again.”
Kali Wagner, 51, of Santa Rosa, said she was on hand as a mother and supporter of equal rights for women and others. Wagner said she would give the new president a chance but said she was scared and concerned about what she had seen from him so far, including misogynist and racist language used on the campaign trail.
She felt motivated for personal reasons, too. A biracial woman whose parents would not have been able to marry in many states only decades ago, Wagner said she did not want to see the country’s progress on civil rights undone.
“We can’t just stand by,” she said. “I’m black. I’m a woman. I’ve got nieces. I’ve got a son I want to raise to take down any wall that gets built up.”
Pushing her 16-month-old daughter, Jade, in a stroller down 1st Street, Marilyn Creamer said she felt compelled to participate because of Trump’s offensive comments and behavior toward women.
“I need to be out here as a role model for my child, telling her and everyone else that it’s not OK,” said Creamer, 33, of Petaluma.
Carrying a rainbow flag and wearing a rainbow scarf while standing along the march route on D Street, Alisse Cottle, 38, of Santa Rosa, said the post-election stakes were personal for her.
“I’m a woman and I’m a lesbian and I don’t want my rights taken away,” she said. “We have to fight. This is the first day of the resistance.”
Many local lawmakers attended or spoke at the rally, including Sonoma County supervisors Shirlee Zane and Lynda Hopkins, Santa Rosa Councilwoman Julie Combs, Windsor Mayor Deb Fudge, state Sen. Mike McGuire and Rohnert Park Mayor Jake Mackenzie.
While women made up a clear majority of the crowd, the march drew plenty of men. As he walked with his wife, David May of Petaluma carried a sign that read, “Recycle Trump.”
May, a bus driver and retired park ranger, said he was concerned about Trump’s stance on environmental protection. He has vowed to roll back or block many of former President Barack Obama’s signature policies combating climate change.
“He’s like an ostrich with his head in the sand,” May said.
McGuire praised the peaceful nature of the one-day revolt, which he said must be sustained.
“The key to this is ‘Keep it up,’” he said. “Yesterday was a different day. We wanted to come together today and push back.”