PHOTOS: Thousands join Vancouver women's march as protests underway across Canada
Rally at Jack Poole Plaza marks one year since worldwide protest greeted President Donald Trump's inauguration.
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Vancouverites marked one year since worldwide women's protests greeted Donald Trump's inauguration as U.S. President, on Saturday at Jack Poole Plaza.
A diverse group of women spoke to the crowd before the march, including a trans woman and a representative from Black Lives Matter Vancouver.
Territorial welcomes from Indigenous women kicked off both this and last year’s rallies. Carleen Thomas, Tsleil-Waututh Nation's Relationships and Protocol Agreements Coordinator, gave a message of unity.
"We have to find a way to coexist," she told the crowd filling the plaza, many in bright colours. "… Acknowledge and hold up the gifts that were given to us."
Last year’s March on Vancouver was was mired in controversy when Black Lives Matter (BLM) Vancouver and trans activists said that they felt excluded from the inaugural march and its planning.
BLM activists had boycotted last year's rally — and also alleged it had been "white-washed" by organizers failing to acknowledge the march’s historic origins in Black activism with the 1963 U.S. civil rights March on Washington.
In response to those criticisms, several of the core organizers from last year — a group of about five white women — expressed remorse. But they maintained they had made an effort to be inclusive of all groups at the rally.
This year, however — which attracted an estimated 2,000 to 2,500 people, BLM-Vancouver and trans people were decisively involved.
Ariam Yetbarek, a representative from BLM-V, was one of over a dozen speakers who each took to the stage to share messages of strength, the need for diverse voices and the importance of the #MeToo movement.
Hailey Heartless, a trans sex worker, also spoke at the rally. Both she and Yetbarek explained that they had not attended last year’s event because they hadn’t felt welcome.
Heartless spoke to the crowd at length about the need for feminists to support sex workers’ rights, and received many cheers. Reached by phone after the march, Heartless was happy her message was well-received.
“I was expecting a bit of resistance from the crowd," she said. "But they were so supportive, it was amazing.
"There was a lot of hate and transphobia … directed at me online leading up to this. A lot of people were really angry that I was speaking and they didn’t want me to speak there.”
Heartless says that last year she had expressed concerns to the organizers about the lack of trans-inclusion. This year, they reached out and asked her to speak at the event.
“Last year I felt excluded," she recalled. "This year I felt included."
And some observed that last year’s march felt as if it had been planned by an organization, for instance with official t-shirts for sale at the rally, Heartless said this year’s felt very "grassroots."
“It just felt like a bunch of friends getting together to do something," she said, "and that’s the sort of activism I really love.”
Attendees stood in the cold and listened to over two hours of speeches and performances. Among the performers was Noor Fadel, an activist with Voices of Muslim Women.
Fadel gave an emotional reading of her poem I Forgive You, about her experience being attacked by a man and how she moved forward and became stronger afterwards.
By the end of her reading, Fadel was in tears. She left the stage and, sobbing, fell into the arms of one of the march organizers for a long, tight hug. Interviewed later by Metro, Fadel said she felt empowered.
“I want to inspire others," she said. "This is my first ever march. To see the crowd, I know that I’m not alone anymore.
"There are so many people, who have stories, that ‘til this day are not able to speak up, because it’s hard … it takes a lot.”
By noon, as attendees finally took to the streets to march, the crowd had dwindled by roughly half, but they marched from the waterfront towards Trump tower, where several security guards stood tensely outside. Passing protestors chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go.”
Retta Hill, a student who attended, said she was glad BLM-V was present this year.
“Feminism is for everybody," she told Metro, adding that it's important "to listen to voices on the margin and furthermore bring those voices into the centre.”
That Black Lives Matter spoke at the event is “a good place to be at,” she said, “and I would like to see that continue.”
A small closing ceremony at Jack Poole Plaza wrapped up the event at 12:30.