HARTFORD -- An estimated 10,000 demonstrators rallied outside the Connecticut State Capitol at noon on Saturday, joined by state leaders and wearing pink “pussyhats” to challenge President Donald Trump’s statements on issues of women’s rights, race, healthcare, climate change, immigration, gay rights and gun control.
“Yesterday, we were told that Washington was going back to the people,” Connecticut State Comptroller Kevin Lembo said before the crowd, referencing Trump’s inaugural address. “Today we’re telling Washington who the people are.”
The Women’s March on Hartford, CT, was one of hundreds of “sister marches” planned for Saturday in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington. The Women’s March on Washington website claims an estimated 2.5 million attendees in 673 marches nationwide and abroad.
Demonstrators held signs such as “Women’s rights = human rights,” “Spread the Love not the Hate” and “Respect my existence or expect resistance.”
Others signs reacted to specific comments made by Trump: “The Future is Nasty” (referring to Trump calling Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” in their third debate), “Pussy Grabs Back” (referring to his boasts about grabbing women’s genitals in a now infamous 2005 Access Hollywood recording) and “Keep your tiny hands off my rights” (mocking Trump’s high-profile sensitivity about the size of his hands).
Attendees waited in a long line to buy pink knit “pussyhats” with cat-ears (another play on Trump’s remarks), which were present at sister marches all over the country.
Maria Tompkins, a senior environmental health major at the University Connecticut, said she attended to stand up for people feeling threatened by the new administration.
“I think a lot of [Trump’s] promises are empty,” Tompkins said. “The fact it’s ok to say the things he has is detrimental and it’s scary.”
This particular event wasn’t a march so much as a rally; the demonstration did not leave Bushnell Park, which surrounds the capitol building. Gov. Dannel Malloy, other elected officials, and representatives from the CT Center for Nonviolence, Advocacy Unlimited, Inc., Planned Parenthood and the ACLU gave short speeches to the crowd from the capitol’s steps.
Malloy called the event an “expression of outrage” and said it was important to defend “our brothers and sisters who are gay, lesbian, transgender, whether they are black or brown, whether they come from another country, race or religion.”
The crowd applauded as Malloy reaffirmed support for Planned Parenthood, reproductive rights and environmental protection.
“If we don’t raise our voice on this day and every day when other people are trying to take our country away from us and lead us in a different then we are missing who we are and what we are, and in Connecticut we will never forget who we are and what we are,” Malloy said, to wide applause.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin praised Connecticut’s progressive history on family medical leave, paid sick leave, raising the minimum wage, gun control reform and gay marriage.
“The State of Connecticut always has been, and now more than ever must be, at the vanguard of the fight for justice and equality in this country,” Bronin said.
Bronin said states can be a “bulwark” against intrusions into civil rights by the federal government.
A statement released from Malloy’s office Saturday morning and read aloud at the rally declared Jan. 21, 2017, to be Women’s March on Washington Day in Connecticut.
State Sen. Beth Bye brought focus to state politics during the event, criticizing Republicans in the state senate for introducing bills that would reduce funding to universities that declare themselves to be sanctuary cities and bills that would add new restrictions to women’s access to abortion.
Lauren Conrad, an Essex woman who works in a bakery, attended with her mother, cousin and daughter to advocate for woman’s rights.
“I don’t think the discussion has changed,” Conrad said. “We’re marching today for the same things I marched for 25 years ago, [my cousin] Michelle marched for 35 years ago, and I think it’s sad that we still need to be having this march and these discussions in 2017.”
Conrad said she discussed what it means to be pro-choice with her daughter Chase, 12, on the car ride to the event.
“I think women’s rights matter,” Chase said. “I don’t think it’s right what [Trump] says about women.”
Olivia Bonnanzio, a senior accounting major at UConn, said she felt empowered to see the turnout at the rally in Hartford.
“I think it’s good to know there are still people who think women are awesome,” Bonnanzio said. “The showing everywhere, no matter what city, has me proud, and it shows we won’t go down without a fight.”
Christopher McDermott is the news editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.