Saturday, cities throughout the country, and the world, organized events around the Women’s March — the annual women’s rights demonstration that began in 2017 following President Trump’s inauguration. Portland, however, did not — at least not officially.
The Women’s March on Portland group rescheduled its official Womxn’s March and Rally for Action to March 3, in an effort to coordinate with International Women’s Day and to not overshadow events associated with Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the surrounding weekend.
Hundreds of people turned out at other Oregon marches adhering to the Saturday date. Cities including Eugene, The Dalles, Salem, Corvallis, Bend and Astoria each held marches.
Portland’s change in focus came amid recent accusations of anti-Semitism tied to founders of the national Women’s March, which caused divisiveness in the movement. Two separate Women’s Marches occurred in New York and the national movement looked toward more inclusiveness in organizing.
Due to the date change of Portland’s “official” Women’s March, though Portland’s group is not technically affiliated with the national group, the city did not have one unified demonstration, and had separate events pegged to the worldwide Saturday date focused on intersecting topics like the #MeToo movement, women’s rights and abortion rights.
The #MeToo Speak Out and Women’s March, organized by a coalition of Socialist Alternative Portland, the Portland State International Socialist Organization and Portland Democratic Socialists of America, was held at Terry D. Schrunk Plaza.
The event called for intersectionality in feminist movements — including nods to the Black Lives Matter movement with calls to end mass incarceration and police brutality, along with demands for equal pay and inclusion of immigrants, sex workers and the LGBTQ+ community.
The speak out gave attendees the chance to publicly tell personal stories of sexual assault, harassment and oppression. It concluded in a march to Pioneer Courthouse Square and met up with another event, the Counter Rally for Reproductive Justice, which was in opposition to the nearby abortion rights opponent group Oregon Right to Life event. That annual event is held near the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.
The Counter Rally for Reproductive Justice was organized by Cascades Abortion Support Collective, KBOO Community Radio and Northwest Abortion Access Fund.
More than 100 counterprotesters stood in the middle of Pioneer Courthouse Square during setup for the Oregon Right to Life event, which began about an hour after the counterprotest.
Rosemary Dodd, a member of Socialist Alternative Portland, said the day’s events were about acknowledging a collective struggle.
“We really wanted to put forth a strategy to link together movements to link the union movement with the women’s movement, to link Black Lives Matter with the women’s movement, to say it’s only through collective struggle that we’re actually going to win concrete things to improve our lives,” Dodd said.
Socialist Alternative organized a #MeToo speak out event last year, so the group wanted to keep the momentum going by planning another event in solidarity with the worldwide Women’s Marches, Dodd said.
Dodd and the rest of the counterprotesters were only met with a handful of visible opponents at Pioneer Courthouse Square — some carrying graphic abortion signs and others yelling pro-Trump slogans.
No physical altercations took place during the event and Portland police were scattered closely around the perimeter of the square.
“We want equality, but we don’t just want equality. We want world free of all kinds of violence, whether it’s systemic or interpersonal,” Dodd said.
Dodd said the groups were disappointed that Portland’s main Women’s March was moved to March 3, but that she hopes everyone still comes out and makes a big showing for that event.