Eureka's Old Town was a sea of pink on Saturday afternoon, as thousands of people filled the streets, many wearing the signature pink "pussy ear" knit caps that have become a symbol of protest against President Donald Trump, who admitted to grabbing women's genitals without their consent in a now infamous 2005 video recorded by Access Hollywood.
Attendance for the Women's March on Eureka, held in solidarity with events across the nation, was initially predicted to be at around 1,000, but according to event organizer Nancy Stephenson the final metered tally was between 7,000 and 8,000 people, which she said was the largest such event in Eureka history. The Eureka Police Department gave a more conservative figure of around 5,000 people.
Signs in the crowd reflected a diverse spectrum of concerns regarding Trump's platform. Many reiterated their solidarity with women and advocated for reproductive rights. Others expressed support for LGBTQ and immigrant rights, and concerns over health care and the environment. In the scant days since Trump's inauguration, he has signed executive orders weakening the Affordable Care Act and reinstated a federal funding ban on international abortion counseling. The new administration has not yet announced a platform on LGBTQ rights or climate change, neither of which are referenced on the new White House website. A current statement says the president is "committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule."
Clutching umbrellas against a driving rain, Nancy Kennedy and Jeff Jordan said this was the first march they had attended, but it was "very important." They were particularly concerned about Social Security and Medicare, and didn't like what they'd seen of Trump's appointees.
"He said he was going to drain the swamp but I think he's filling it with alligators and snakes," said Kennedy.
Janine Lauritzen, of Fortuna, stated she was concerned about the potential federal defunding of Planned Parenthood, which she credits with saving her daughter's life with preventative care. Critics have pointed out that abortions make up only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood's services, and the Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, already bars federal tax dollars from funding abortion services. Removing federal funding for Planned Parenthood means, essentially, that poor women will be unable to use Medicare for preventative care at their facilities.
Lauritzen, who married her long-time girlfriend Cindy Lauritzen in 2014, said that notoriously anti-LGBTQ Vice President Mike Pence "scares the hell" out of her.
Debi Farber-Bush, who re-used a sign from a Pride event, echoed these concerns. She was wearing a jean jacket she had decorated for an HIV-awareness rally in the 1990s.
"I never thought I'd have to bring them out today," she said.
Stephanie Weldon, who attended the rally with her young daughter, Betty, said she would be marching alongside fellow indigenous women. A large contingent of women representing various tribes across California participated in the march, some wearing traditional woven caps.
Betty Weldon, a grade schooler, said she was scared about her friends being deported.
"I told them that if they never came back I would be sad," she said.
Mark Lewis, a dialysis patient, wore a sign that read "Dead Man Walking." Without the help of the Affordable Care Act, he said he will be dead within three months, as MediCal doesn't cover his treatment. He and his wife, Julie Lewis, drove down from Crescent City to participate in the march, although he wasn't certain he could actually walk in the rain due to his health.
The weather had eased by the time the speakers began. A diverse group of women and men spoke briefly about their concerns for the administration, calling for unity and offering suggestions on how to organize.
Cheryl Seidner of the Wiyot Tribe led the crowd in a moment of silence and prayer. Wendy Ring encouraged people to take action and ask their local governments to become sanctuary cities and to implement strong climate action plans. Terry Uyeki, one of the march's organizers, recalled her grandparents' experiences in Japanese American internment camps and called for attendees to stand in solidarity with Muslims and immigrants.
Songs performed by Joanne Rand and the Arcata Interfaith Gospel Choir earned loud applause, as did a poem read by Sue Lee Mossman inviting people to "come walk in the rain with me."
The crowd was so large that, once the march began, it bottlenecked as people followed a marching band along the waterfront. A large section of the crowd split off and went down First Street, where it reunited and filled F Street, turning north on Third, and turning around to return to the plaza. The mood was largely positive and the crowd was filled with families, couples and dogs. Spontaneous chants broke out including "Hey, ho, the pussy grabber must go!" Another sign read, "Donald Trump Eats Pizza With a Fork."
The Eureka Police Department praised the march as being well-organized and peaceful. Several officers were hugged by marchers as the crowd slowly made its way toward the Carson Mansion before turning around.
EPD made four arrests later in the day after a splinter group stopped traffic on U.S. Highway 101 at the corner of Fourth and H streets. Both EPD and Humboldt County Sheriff's Office responded to the scene. Two of the arrestees, Courtnie "Gork" Burns and Hannah Zivolich, sent a press release to the Journal saying they had "blocked the road as an act of resistance against the violent systems in power."
Back in Old Town, an aura of good cheer remained as friends spotted one another in the thinning crowds and exchanged hugs. Local bars, cafes and restaurants filled.
Uyeki said the march is only the beginning and that organizers will announce their next steps soon.
"We were trying to make a statement and that was loud and clear throughout the world," she said. "I don't want the march to be all of it."Editor's Note: This article was updated to properly attribute the statement sent by the arrestees. The statement was originally attributed to Humboldt Grassroots, a local anarchist organization. The Journal regrets the error.