CHEYENNE – A year after President Donald Trump’s inauguration and nearly a year after thousands of women across the country took to the streets to protest the messages of his presidential campaign, hundreds of women, men, children and dogs met again Saturday at Cheyenne’s Depot Plaza to march for the same cause.
The vocal crowd of 750 to 1,000 people gathered at the Cheyenne Depot Plaza and marched down Capitol Avenue to the Wyoming Supreme Court to the sounds of call-and-response chants about democracy, diversity and women’s rights.
It appeared that progressive women all across the country were galvanized in the past year by calls for change about sexual assault and harassment through the #MeToo movement and the promise of national midterm and local elections on the horizon.
On Saturday in Cheyenne, the feeling was no different. The march’s theme was one of grassroots optimism: “Hear Our Vote.”
“That is the most important thing that we as American citizens can do – take back our government and vote for the people that care about and share our values,” event organizer Lori Brand said. “I hope that all of you leave here (Saturday) to do that.”
Marchers shared that same wish.
“I really do hope we see a change in the midterm elections,” said Rachel Van Houten, who came to the march from Loveland, Colorado, to accompany her mother, Cherry Kildow of Cheyenne.
“I’d like to see a little more balance in Wyoming politics,” Kildow added, saying during the past 20 years she has seen the balance and respect in politics “erode” across the state.
Speakers such as Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Throne, state Reps. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, and James Byrd, D-Cheyenne, reiterated the importance of voting and electing more women into office.
Wyoming’s state Legislature ranks last in the nation for female representation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In 2016, only 11 percent of elected representatives were women.
And it has been nearly a century since the last woman held the state’s top office of governor, Throne added.
“We have to get more women elected from the city councils to the state Legislatures; from the County Commission to the governor’s mansion,” Throne said. “But you can’t be elected if you don’t run.”
And in that spirit, organizer Sara Burlingame announced her plans to run for the 44th House district in the state Legislature to loud cheers and applause.
Some speakers and attendees touched on other topics such as religious tolerance, LGBTQ issues, abortion rights, Native American issues, immigration and domestic violence.
Arshi Rizwani-Nisley, the keynote speaker and English instructor at Laramie County Community College, dubbed 2018 “The American Year of the Woman.”
In that year, she said, the importance of efforts to save the environment will not be ignored; the vitality of programs such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals will be recognized; and immigrants will be respected and welcomed into the country.
“It’s not just Trump … there are other lawmakers surrounding and supporting him,” Rizwani-Nisley said. “And we can take our power to the polls to change that.”