Close to 3,000 Richmond residents marched on Monument Avenue Saturday in support of various social justice causes.
Richmonders of all ages walked in solidarity with next weekend’s Jan. 21 Women’s March on Washington beneath statues of Confederate Army leaders under a cloudy sky.
“This is what democracy looks like,” the crowd chanted in disconnected unity as people of all ages walked from Monument Avenue’s Robert E. Lee statue to Boulevard.
The demonstration was a “nonpartisan march of the people,” according to the event’s Facebook page. “To send a message that Richmonders are standing up for those in danger of oppression and being marginalized.”
U.S. Democratic Rep. Donald McEachin concluded the march by addressing the crowd in front of a sign that read "It's Time to Put Women in the U.S. Constitution," referencing the proposed Equal Rights Act.
“Democracy is a participation sport,” McEachin said. “You got to participate.”
The roads that once served as transport for the leaders of the Confederate Army served as transport for advocates of equality and inclusion yesterday afternoon. For Richmond resident Aliya Farooq, the march provided an opportunity to do good for the community.
“I’m here because I’m a part of Richmond,” Farooq, who wore a headscarf and carried a sign with the words “Peace” and “Coexist” written on it, said. “I want us to work together to create good.”
State Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond), WC ’92, arrived at the march directly after attending Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney's inauguration.
McClellan invoked Martin Luther King Jr. two days before the nation will celebrate his life and the impact his existence had on the nation.
“Hate cannot defeat hate, only love can do that,” McClellan said, paraphrasing MLK. “We fight like we’ve never fought before to make sure that all Americans are treated with dignity, love and respect.”
The march took place for social justice issues of all kinds, as was represented by the diversity of signs held by demonstrators. Attendees carried signs supporting different rights and changes including the proposed Equal Rights Amendment, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights and abortion access.
State Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond), WC ’92, addresses the crowd in front of a sign that reads "It's Time to Put Women in the U.S. Constitution." (Claire Comey/The Collegian)
Multiple signs also displayed dissent toward President-elect Donald J. Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
“It seemed unreal,” Richmond resident Ashley Nolting, 41, said of Trump’s election. “I cried and didn’t talk for the whole next day.”
Seventy nine percent of people who voted in Richmond City on Nov. 8 voted for Hillary Clinton.
The election also provided reason for Richmond student Robin Akers, WC ’19, to attend the march, or, as she called it, “the social justice parade.”
“I was really in disbelief,” Akers said of the election. “But I was really heartened by everything that happened afterwards, everyone coming together and days like today in Richmond.”
Sixteen groups and nonprofit organizations, including the ACLU of Virginia, GLSEN and HOME: Housing Opportunities Made Equal, supported Saturday’s march.
“Richmond’s a great city,” Nolting said. “It makes you very proud to be from Richmond, to have this much diversity and hope and kindness and love and it’s a good feeling."
One attendee held a sign that read “Not My President” above her head for the entirety of the eight-block walk.
This attendee and the thousands of others surrounding her, not unlike the Confederate leaders who stoically provided observance to the monumental walk, voiced their dissent of the leadership in a nation that has questioned its leaders since its genesis.
Melissa Brooks, one of the march organizers, ended the afternoon with a message of peace and love.
“This march was organized by a bunch of moms,” Brooks said. “Go in peace. Change the world.”
Contact news editor Claire Comey at email@example.com