Thousands of chanting women and men cascaded through the Ithaca Commons on Saturday during the Women’s March on Ithaca, greatly surpassing organizers’ expectations and forming the largest political gathering in the city in recent memory.
A sea of colorful clothes, clever signs and committed Ithacans gathered at Ithaca City Hall and marched along a one-mile route that was much too short to accommodate the large crowds. Some would-be marchers at the back of the rally had not moved by the time marchers at the front had completed their lap around downtown Ithaca.
Nonetheless, between 8,000 and 10,000 people ultimately poured onto the Bernie Milton Pavilion on the Commons, Ithaca Police Officer Jamie Williamson said, a surprising turnout for a city with a population of about 31,000. Lt. Dan Donahue of the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office said he has never seen a march as big as Saturday’s anywhere in the county during his 18 years on the job.
The march was one of hundreds of coordinated events in the U.S. and around the world to push for civil rights and show dissatisfaction with President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and expected policies. The Washington D.C. event is expected to be the largest inauguration-related demonstration in U.S. history, according to multiple reports.
Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick ’09, who was repeatedly stopped by dozens of Ithacans asking to take selfies, said he was stunned by the crowds, which he said were only rivaled by Slope Day and annual graduation ceremonies.
“The sun’s out and it’s warm, but honestly, I think all of these people would be here if it was raining and sleeting,” Myrick told The Sun. “I’ve never seen such a steady stream of determined people. It’s funny, because people aren’t exactly happy and they’re not exactly angry, they’re just determined.” Amanda Champion, the primary organizer of Ithaca’s march, said she began planning the event within days of the November election, and the huge attendance took her by surprise.
“I thought maybe there would be maybe 2,500, and then it just blew me away — over the top,” she said. “Everybody is so happy to have an outlet, and know that we’re not alone and that everybody is in this together.”
Young girls climbed into trees and maintained their perches for hours as speakers including Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D-125), Tompkins County Historian Carol Kammen, former State Senate candidate Leslie Danks Burke and motivational speaker Michelle Berry ’92 delivered harsh rebukes of Trump and encouraged Ithacans to take a stand.
“Look around you — we can’t fit here,” Berry said in a powerful speech that brought the loudest rounds of applause. “Imagine what’s going on in Washington and around the world. … Today we march on, we rise. This is a day in history. The snapshot of you is all around our world forever.” Lifton, whose district includes all of Tompkins County, said the election of Trump could instigate enough pushback to substantially advance progressive causes.
“We will win, sooner rather than later, because we are already feeling impatient,” she said. “2017, and we are fighting for fundamental rights.”
As thousands danced, sang and yelled on the Commons, protests in other cities were overflowing with participants. The planned marches in both Washington D.C. and Chicago turned into rallies after attendees flooded the routes, ruling out any possibility of actual marches.
The march also brought waves of customers to local businesses. Asked if Saturday had been unusually busy, a Gimme Coffee barista said, “Look at the pastry case,” pointing to empty shelves where scones and croissants had been hours earlier.
Several police departments managed traffic and kept an eye on the event, but there were no arrests and no injuries, Officer Williamson said.
— Cornell Daily Sun (@cornellsun) January 21, 2017