The #PowerToThePolls rally in Nevada drew thousands: ‘Last year was more of an outpouring of emotion. This year it’s about a call to action’
The first anniversary of the Women’s March was celebrated in a Las Vegas stadium on Sunday with a “#PowerToThePolls” rally, intended to harness and direct the so-called “resistance” against Donald Trump.
There were chants of “Today we protest, tomorrow we vote”. Dozens of female political leaders spoke about the fight for equality. And thousands of women registered to volunteer or vote, waved signs and donned pink knit “pussy hats”.
“I’ve always voted but now it’s more important to be active,” said Tiffany MacDonald of Henderson, Nevada. Her oldest daughter had a sign stating “cheese and crackers, this matters!” MacDonald’s mother carried a placard that read: “Now you’ve pissed off nana.”
“My grandmother fought for some of these rights and now we have to fight for them again,” MacDonald said.
Capping a weekend on which thousands of protesters returned to the streets in Washington, New York, Los Angeles and hundreds of other cities in the US and around the world, the Las Vegas event had the air of a mission.
“We marched in Washington DC last year and had such a profound experience that we wanted to do it again,” said Kathy Goodman, a Chicagoan who flew in with her sister.
“Politically, I never paid that much attention before. But this administration just scared us to death with its stance on women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, healthcare – everything – so we’re trying to make a difference volunteering.
“I’m about 30 minutes’ drive from [House speaker] Paul Ryan’s district, so I’m going to volunteer for the Democrat running against him in the midterm.”
With the federal government shut down over immigration reform, Nevada representatives stuck in Washington welcomed the crowd via Skype.
“Women … including from those so-called ‘shithole’ countries, welcome to Nevada,” said congresswoman Dina Titus. Before her, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto told the crowd: “The fight continues … la lucha sigue.”
Holding the rally in southern Nevada ensured a sunny day, but the event’s organizers mostly hoped the location would translate into political momentum in a key state. Control of the US Senate could hinge on who Nevadans choose to represent them in November 2018.
“We have an incumbent who’s a gentleman [Dean Heller] and is being challenged by a woman [Jacky Rosen], so there’s extreme interest in this race,” Elaine Wynn, honorary co-sponsor of Sunday’s event, told the Guardian.
“Last year the march was more of an outpouring of emotion. Now this year it’s a bit different. It’s about a call to action, and a call to action of course in a peaceful democracy is to do it at the polls.
“Women have been coalescing all across the country to not only register more women to vote, but to encourage women to run for office and we’ve seen a lot of success.”
One of the rare states to see a Democratic wave in 2016, Nevada represents the party’s hope for the future – and women’s equality in particular. Hillary Clinton won the “Battleborn” state comfortably; it is tied for first in the nation for the largest percentage of female legislators; the mayors of Las Vegas and Reno are women; and in electing Cortez Masto it sent the first Latina to the US Senate.
“Overall, we need more women in Congress because we have unique challenges that only we face,” said Amy Vilela, a woman campaigning for a congressional seat currently held by Rubén Kihuen, a Democrat who will not seek re-election after being accused of sexual harassment.
“I started off as a single mother working a job full time,” Vilela continued, “taking care of my children full time, I had to be on Wic [Women, Infants, Children food program], Medicaid, food stamps, while trying to make it up through a career field where I get paid pennies on the dollar.
“That is a unique experience to a lot of women, so when we talk about how we’re going to be fixing programs, we need to have women sitting at the table being able to share their experience.”
In the stadium bleachers, organizers representing every cause from immigration reform to Black Lives Matter and reproductive rights collected names and phone numbers: “activation”, as they called it. Several generations of voters were on hand, united by a mutual loathing.
One woman’s sign used “TRUMP” as an acronym for “Terrible Racist Unstable Maniac Predator”. Another had a poster reading “Vaginas brought you into this world & vaginas will vote you out!”
Yet the mood was consistently hopeful.
“This is a birthday party for a movement that has only begun to flex its power,” said Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org, a political action group.
Requesting then that the crowd share its enthusiasm via social media, she added: “This is the one rare moment when what happens in Vegas shouldn’t stay in Vegas.”