Want to change nation’s politics? March to a voting booth, Women’s March speakers say

“I am woman, hear me roar,” the crowd chanted Saturday at the second annual Women’s March in Fresno, one of many marches nationwide that urged the use of political action – voting – to support women’s rights.

Thousands turned out for this year’s march and rally, the theme of which was “Hear Our Vote” and which was held at the corner of Nees Avenue and Fresno Street.

Women marched for “a number of reasons,” said organizing lead Kim Slavan. “Everyone is marching for their own voice. It could be for women’s rights, it could be for human rights.”

She said the theme was intended to emphasize that change doesn’t just take place with marches, but also more importantly at the polls.

“Unless you get that (voice) to the polls and vote, (a march is) going to get the word out, but it’s not going to make action,” Slavan said. “Voting is what’s going to have action to change things.”

By noon, women, men, pets and children were partaking in a common goal: making their voices heard.

Members of the crowd held signs promoting women’s rights. One sign read: “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” Another sign held by a man read: “Men of quality will not fear equality.”

Not all sign bearers were adults. “Why aren’t we all equal yet?” read the sign held by one girl.

Her mother, Jennica Geddert, said the fight for equality is nothing new to her family. “My grandparents wanted equality. And my mom, my mother-in-law, they work for equality,” she said.

“Of course I want my daughter here,” said Geddert, 40.

Soon-to-be mom Jewel Hurtado, 19, who was a speaker at the event, said she came to the march because she wants to show her son when he’s older that she stood alongside strong and powerful women. Hurtado said she got that same inspiration from her mother and and grandmother.

“It’s in my blood,” Hurtado said of her connection to the movement. She said her son will be at next year’s march with her.

Nearly 20 speakers, including civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, spoke at the rally. “We have so much work to do,” Huerta, a co-founder of the United Farm Workers, said about the women’s rights movement. “We’re not going to get discouraged.”

She ended her speech asking the crowd to chant with her, “Who has the power? We do. What kind of power? Voting power.”

Criticism was buzzing on social media and some marchers carried signs charging that transgender people were purposely excluded from speaking at the Fresno event, but Slavan told The Bee that was not the case.

“Everyone is welcome here,” she said. “The bottom line is that we never got a final word on who the (trans) speaker would be.”

Jessica Johnson: 559-441-6051, @iamjesslj