Following the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump, community leaders all over the country and world organized women’s marches to demonstrate in solidarity against the Trump administration. In Riverside, this march began at City Hall and moved throughout the downtown Riverside area beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 21.
A celebration of women, women’s rights and intersectional solidarity across the board, this march made history as the largest demonstration in the history of the Inland Empire. According to estimates, there were close to 4,000 individuals. Across from the City Hall, where the main stage was located, the protestors marched down University Avenue. People also gathered on the roofs of nearby buildings, which were filled to capacity, to see the event.
In attendance were community leaders and officials, among them Congressman Mark Takano, Assemblywoman for the 47th District Eloise Reyes and Assemblyman for the 61st district Jose Medina. Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes, who represents the city of Riverside and is a UC Riverside alumna, was notably absent due to prior engagements.
The program started with a dance piece set to Obama’s farewell address in Chicago and the Pledge of Allegiance. This was met with chants of “Love Trumps Hate.” Following the performance piece was a speech by Maria Barragan, an undocumented rights activist, who touched upon a variety of themes, including the struggles of undocumented individuals, racism and the necessity of community organizing. She ended on an impassioned note of hope for minorities and people of color, stating, “My brothers and sisters the undocumented community is here for you!”
After Maria Barragan’s speech, Fauzia Rizvi gave a speech discussing her career as an IT professional and the struggles of working in a primarily male dominated field as a Muslim woman. Her speech was met with cheers from the entire crowd, especially when she claimed, “It’s time to fight on for civil rights, economic rights, environmental rights!” Following this speech was Eloise Reyes, who discussed growing up in the Inland Empire and and her inspiration from the people assembled.
Activist Mary Figueroa, who has spent decades organizing in the Inland Empire on behalf of Latino issues, also spoke. She began by discussing the importance of activism to many communities in the area. Figueroa discussed her time with Cesar Chavez, and the importance of activism and education for the foreseeable future under the Trump administration, “Education is the greatest equalizer!”
UC Student Regent Marcela Ramirez also took the stage, opening with a quote by activist Angela Davis, “We have been sent a message by Washington, D.C.!” As the crowd loudly cheered, Ramirez discussed the importance of supporting local communities and maintaining other communities as well as our own. Once Ramirez finished her speech, her partner Lissa Stapleton, an assistant professor of deaf studies at CSU Northridge, impromptly came up to share a few words.
After praising Ramirez, Stapleton stated, “Everyone here, is fighting for justice, but all those who are fighting for justice are really fighting for love.” After a round of applause, Stapleton proposed to Ramirez on stage.
After the core lineup of speakers, the crowd dispersed, with many continuing the march. Congressman Mark Takano stated, “This event has gone beyond what I could imagine. I believe the organizers thought (they) would be lucky to get 1000, but there are over 3,000 people here. This is a profound expression of this community against the agenda of Donald Trump.” Speaking about what he considered the disastrous result of a contentious election, he continued by saying, “Trump has put forth a big lie on whitehouse.gov which says he won this election in a landslide, when he did not win the popular vote.” Takano was critical of Trump’s proposed agenda and what he sees as his “divisiveness” across the political spectrum.
Many officials and community leaders in attendance spent time discussing issues with many of the marchers in attendance, and were very passionate and hopeful about the event, which confounded many of the expectations held by the organizers. Rafael Elizalde, who was involved in organizing the march and is running for city council in Riverside ward 6 stated, “we were expecting initially about 300 people — that is the average you’ll get for a protest out here in Riverside — and I think we have about 5,000 people tonight.”
As assemblywoman Eloise Reyes met with people and talked to them, she stated, “We believe in a just America and a united America, and more than ever we need to be united.”
Editor’s note: Fauzia Rizvi is the mother of the writer of this piece.