Volunteers on Saturday morning armed with cheerful smiles and wooden clipboards weaved their way throughout a crowd of roughly 10,000 people in downtown Denver asking a single question: “Have you registered to vote?”
Eagerly answering their questions were people from across Colorado, many donning knitted pink hats, who joined in Civic Center Park to celebrate the fourth annual Denver Womxn’s March. Together, they advocated for issues like equality, reproductive rights, climate change, gun safety and immigration.
Unlike past years, the 2020 parade was different. It not only marked the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, but also a presidential election year.
“This year’s event is about education, it’s about registration, it’s about getting people to realize that their vote not only counts, but it’s extremely important,” spokeswoman Kerry O’Grady said.
Instead of a rally and a stacked lineup of political speeches, Saturday’s event featured live performances, art exhibits and an “Impact Expo,” including nearly 60 exhibitors, such as New Era Colorado and the U.S. Census Bureau.
Roughly 5,000 people attended the expo inside the McNichols Civic Center Building, according to event organizers. At one point, there was a 90-minute waiting line because of the building’s 2,300-person capacity.
Leaders of the march said the goal of hosting the expo was to facilitate “meaningful and deep” engagement with the Colorado community.
“It’s about connecting people with things they can do that makes them feel like they’re not helpless in this era of politics that has been so frightening to so many,” O’Grady said.
Denver City Councilwoman Robin Kniech was among the thousands marching in the one-mile loop that began at the corner of 14th Avenue and Bannock Street.
“I’m marching to keep up the momentum of our community,” she said. “Our community has a lot of important votes coming up this year and a lot of important policy work, like passing family and medical leave. The more we can unite and keep that energy going — that we have the power to make the world look and reflect the values we believe in — the better.”
For others, joining the march was simply out of distaste for President Donald Trump.
“Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go,” the crowd erupted periodically.
“Impeach, convict and remove,” another dozen would chant.
“I think Wilco would probably be a better president than our current one,” said Erin Semón, pointing to her shaggy poodle mix who’s attended the women’s march every year and sported a cardboard sign that read, “I always get consent before I sniff butts.”
Other Coloradans attended in support of others fighting for equal rights.
“I’m here to be an ally,” said David Ortiz, a candidate running for the state House of Representatives. “I’m marching with my fellow Arapahoe County Democrats in solidarity, making sure we fight for gender equity at all levels of governments.”
A few counter protesters attended the march as well, showing support for the president.
“Hey hey, ho ho, four more years of Donald Trump,” one protester chanted alongside marchers.
“I’m voting for Donald Trump because, honestly, no other president has done for my people what Donald Trump has done,” the protester said under the alias Bryan. “Black people are benefiting, finally, from the economy after so many years of being tortured and forced out of jobs. Now we have an opportunity to be successful.”
Another Trump supporter, wearing the signature red “Make America Great Again” cap, said the president has done a “fair job.”
“I didn’t vote for him in 2016, but he’ll get my vote this year,” said Michael Alvarado, pointing to job growth across the country and the trade agreement Trump on Jan. 15 signed with China.
“All these hoaxes — ‘Russiagate,’ this whole impeachment thing — are just a joke,” he said. “It’s pushed me to the other side, and I think he’s done a well enough job that he deserves another four years.”
The Associated Press reported that marches were planned in Aspen, Cortez, Durango, Grand Junction, Greeley, Glenwood Springs, Steamboat Springs and Trinidad.
The march in Denver and similar events across the country began in 2017, the day after Trump’s inauguration. Last year, Denver’s event leaders unanimously decided to change the spelling of “women” with an “x” as a symbol of inclusivity for all people who experience sexism.
In Washington, D.C., and beyond, turnouts have begun to dwindle since the march’s first year. Meanwhile, the movement has struggled to remain relevant, according to some experts who follow protest movements.
But event organizers in Denver don’t see it that way. “Votes are very relevant, and they’re relevant to women,” O’Grady said.
Denver’s organizers will host a “Get Out the Vote” rally in early fall, but an official date has not yet been announced.
“For us, it’s not just about a march,” event spokeswoman Patricia Smith said. “It’s a movement.”