An estimated crowd of about 10,000 rallied Saturday in Hartford at the state Capitol to fight for women’s rights and express their emotions about what President Donald Trump’s administration might mean for women and their families.
State Sen. Beth Bye, a West Hartford Democrat, started by thanking Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for showing mothers and daughters that they could run for president and that a “highly unqualified man, defeated the most qualified candidate ever to run for president.”
She said Clinton’s loss in November “exposed a huge double-standard in our culture.”
Borrowing a word from the Civil Rights movement, Bye said they “woke” on Nov. 9.
“Hillary woke us to the power of the patriarchy,” Bye said.
“But we’re not going back to sleep,” she said to loud applause.
Bye, who donned on her knitted pussy hat before finishing her remarks, encouraged the crowd to get involved. She said the last time she spoke to a gathering of a similar size to Saturday’s was in 2013 after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Capitol police estimated that rally at 5,500. Following that rally, Bye said, Connecticut passed “the strongest gun safety laws in this nation.”
She said Republican lawmakers have introduced four bills that would take away the right for women to make their own reproductive choices. And she said that in the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee that she co-chairs, there are three bills aimed at taking away financial aid for colleges that offer sanctuary status to their students.
“Stay awake. We need you up here,” Bye said.
She said the most effective thing the crowd could do for the 2017 legislative session is to help pass the “strongest paid Family and Medical Leave policy in the United States.”
Back from attending Trump’s inauguration, Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said this day is more than an “expression of disappointment as some people will try to say it is. It is an expression of outrage at the direction that some people would lead us in.”
Malloy said they need to stand strong and to “embrace and love our brothers and sisters, whether they are gay, lesbian or transgender. Whether they’re black or brown or come from another county or are another religion.”
Malloy, who has been supportive of the LGBTQ community and received a profile in courage award last year for welcoming a Syrian refugee family to Connecticut when Indiana refused them, said they need to stand together and protect and love one another.
“If we don’t raise our voice on this day and every day when other people are trying to take our country away and lead us in a different direction, then we’re missing who we are and what we are,” Malloy said. “In Connecticut we will never forget who we are and what we are.”
He urged the crowd to make sure every day over the next four years that they stay ready to express their outrage again.
State Comptroller Kevin Lembo, the state’s first openly gay constitutional officer, said Connecticut opens its doors to anyone who vows to work for a civil and just society. He said Connecticut continues to support him based on policy, not based on who he loves.
He invited the crowd to come back and advocate for policies because decisions are made by those who show up.
“The rally may be over, but the work continues until our nation’s values reflect Connecticut values,” Lembo said. “Stay involved, please.”
Jenny Maher, of Canton, said she was so excited to see so many people after such a “grim” Friday, the day of Trump’s inauguration.
Some argued that the women marching Saturday didn’t know precisely what they are marching for, but Maher said she’s seen enough of Trump on TV to know what he’s about and to know the threat he poses to her rights and the rights of others.
More than 80 charter buses from Connecticut traveled to Washington for the official Women’s March in the nation’s capitol. Many of the marchers in Hartford were unable to attend and were happy to be able to show their support closer to home.
The march in Hartford was a sister march planned by a group of women’s organizations. There was another sister march in Stamford.
Early news reports said about 500,000 attended the march in Washington, while other women’s marches were taking place in cities all over the country Saturday. The Chicago Tribune reported 250,000 on hand in Chicago. The Boston Globe reported 135,000 to 150,000 in Boston.
In terms of the size of the crowd in Hartford on Saturday, the Capitol Police estimate of 10,000 suggests the event was the largest in recent memory. Aside from the gun control rally attended by 5,500 in 2013, a gun-rights rally that preceded it earlier that year was estimated at 1,000 and another gun rights rally drew more than 3,000 the following year. The largest state Capitol rally was back in 1991 when 40,000 taxpayers revolted against implementation of the income tax.