Hundreds came together for the Women’s March Saturday in Eau Claire

Protesters said they were marching to protect civil rights and promote equality


Photo by Anne Sandell

Hundreds of protesters rallied together Saturday morning in the Water St. parking lot to march for equality.

While women numbered in the hundreds of thousands filled the streets Saturday in Washington, D.C. for the Women’s March on Washington, hundreds came together in Eau Claire to follow suit.

It began a little before 10 a.m. as crowds of women, men and children with brightly-colored signs and clothing formed in the Water Street parking lot.

The protest, aimed at protecting civil rights following the recent inauguration of President Donald Trump, opened with several community activists’ speeches on topics from sexual violence to health care. Speakers included Serena Wagner, Christina Wolff, Reverend Julie Lepp, Dawn Garcia, Haopay Lee and Eau Claire city councilwoman and alum Catherine Emmanualle.

After an hour of speeches, the protesters made their way to Phoenix Park lining both sides of the road. People pushed strollers, held hands and got to know one another as they marched down First Avenue, Lake Street and Barstow Street.

Internationally, Women’s March organizers estimated over five million came together worldwide to march, speak and “make our voices heard.” Serena Wagner, a UW-Eau Claire alum who has lived in the city her entire life, helped organize the Eau Claire event and spoke about the importance of continuing to push for change.

“Take today as a moment of solidarity for all Americans and make tomorrow count. Do not let this momentum die,” Wagner said. “Participate in our local elections, support our local non-profits, uphold our artist communities, celebrate and protect the wonderful diversity that our community and this earth holds.”

Anne Sandell
Protesters make their way down First Avenue with bright colored signs for the Eau Claire Women’s March.

Around 250 people came together Saturday, but organizers said the plan was relatively last minute in hopes of getting those who were unable to travel to the sister march in St. Paul involved a little closer to home.

Aliana Sigala, a first year student at UW-Eau Claire said she decided to march after a friend told her about the event. She said that everything helped and one more person couldn’t hurt the cause.

Sigala performed “Super Woman” alongside her sister Sasha Kirby, a student at North High School, in the events leading up to the march. Sigala said she is most passionate about educating Americans about “all of the different ‘isms,’ like racism, sexism, ageism and ableism.”

“We still have so far to go,” Sigala said. “The Women’s march is just a section of all of that, but I think the overall acceptance of everyone we still have a long way to go.”

Eau Claire City Councilwoman Catherine Emmanualle gave the final speech of the morning and marched with her baby swaddled against her chest alongside community members.

Emmanualle, who represents over 66,000 people in the city of Eau Claire, said she was delighted to take part in an important day in the history of our country after the event’s organizers reached out to her to speak.

“Eau Claire has been so diligent to show her civic stripes and to be involved,” Emmanualle said. “And so here we are caring about issues that are so important to women and families all across our community and country that really need to be elevated in light of a very negative and divisive rhetoric from our new Commander and Chief.”

Many of the signs carried by protestors pointed to Trump’s rhetoric some reading “Make America Think Again” or “Got my marching boots on … it’s swampy out there!”

Rachel Douglas, a junior elementary education student, said she was among those marching for her beliefs as well as her future students. She said she feels it’s important to stand up for what you believe in, in a peaceful way, but also raise awareness for voices not being heard.

“There’s a lot, but I would say I’m walking for my future students,” Douglas said. “I just think it’s really important to support young girls, especially girls of color, being able to understand that they can literally be whatever they want to be and there is so much more than the sum of their body parts, or what they look like or what society tells them they should be.”