After millions of women rallied around the country and the world over the weekend to protest the inauguration of President Donald Trump, a spin-off rally on the first day of Utah’s legislative session sought to underscore the message of advancing women’s rights at a local level.
Thousands of Utahns trudged through an afternoon snowstorm holding signs, wearing knitted pink “pussyhats” and shouting chants as they marched up State Street to the steps of the Capitol building.
Salt Lake Community College student Ally Lynn held up a sign that said “Love Trumps Hate” while marching with her aunt Aimee Driskill. She said she’d never seen a protest this big in Utah, which state highway patrol officials estimated at 6,000 people.
“I have a gay father; I have a black sister, a black aunt and I personally have experienced things that have just really affected me here in Utah,” she says. “So seeing Utah do this, I broke into tears. I’m only 17, and a lot of 17 year olds don’t care about this stuff, but I do.”
On a day when state lawmakers are beginning their work, marchers like Kalli Saibara-Cook want to remind them to focus on issues of importance to Utahns.
“I don’t know that we’re being represented in a way that I care for,” she says. “Clean air and education deserves the funding over things like all the money that’s going into banning porn and other websites.”
Saibara-Cook was referencing a resolution introduced by Republican Sen. Todd Weiler declaring porn a public health crisis.
She and other protestors are also worried, they say, by legislation they view as hostile to women’s reproductive choices, including anti-abortion bills.
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Salt Lake, said he welcomed the peaceful protests while still defending the state’s record on women’s rights.
“I think that we’ve been very progressive as a state in acknowledging women and their rights and their ability to govern and be part of the process,” he said.
Organizers of the rally, led by a group called Utah Women Unite, say their plan is to get Utahns more plugged into local issues and keep the pressure on lawmakers during the session.