The little girls carried signs and clutched pink balloons. They perched atop their fathers’ shoulders and walked alongside their mothers. They joined in chants of “This is what democracy looks like!” and “Strong women, strong world!”
They were among the youngest of the more than 8,000 people of all ages who marched through downtown Omaha on Saturday for the 2018 Omaha Women’s March. Last year’s local march, held the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, drew 12,000.
The energy on Saturday was different from 2017, said Jen Homann, 33, who participated in both marches and this year brought along her 5-year-old son.
“We marched out of frustration last year and I’ve only grown more frustrated,” she said. “But now there’s this really important message that the movement is evolving.”
That was the theme of both speeches delivered at the local march, which was called “March on the Polls 2018” and encouraged political action.
The two speakers, Marta Nieves and Ashlei Spivey, both emphasized that the next steps of the movement need to be taken with inclusivity in mind. Spivey said she wasn’t there to advocate for only one kind of woman or person, and asked marchers to stand up for people of all races, socioeconomic statuses and sexual orientations.
“We all have a responsibility to revolutionize the systems that continue to oppress certain communities and not just when we are directly affected.”
Chris Bohlsen, 39, said he was impressed at the “positive and powerful” messages from both the speakers and the participants.
His 6-year-old daughter, Celeste, spent most of the march on his shoulders, proudly wearing a Wonder Woman cape and holding up a sign that said “Be a wonder like a woman.”
“As a man, I don’t think you have to have a daughter or a wife to support equal rights,” Bohlsen said. “I want my daughter and son to see that everyone has a voice.”
Celeste picked out her outfit and made her sign herself, Bohlsen said.
“She was excited and I think she’s going to have a lot of questions when we get home,” he said. “That’s when the conversation will be really important.”
Marches were held globally, and in Nebraska there were also rallies in Lincoln and Loup City, where 74 percent of the vote went to Trump in 2016. Speakers at the Loup City march discussed potential defunding for Planned Parenthood, transgender issues and sexual harassment and assault.
“We’re not backing down here, we’re still watching,” said Tamra Jonak, a Loup City business owner. “They keep saying, ‘Make America Great Again,’ and that’s hard to see that when there’s a lot of injustices being done.”
This report includes material from the Kearney Hub.