Stacy Brobst stood against a green barricade that blocked incoming foot traffic, and from the other side of the fence all that was visible was her face, the tears she wiped away—and the pink ears of her hat.
“I watched [Donald Trump’s inauguration] speech, but I didn’t watch anything else,” said Brobst, a San Jose resident. “And I only watched that because my son has taught me that we need to listen. We need to listen so that we know what we’re fighting against.”
In one of the largest political demonstrations in San Jose’s history, Brobst joined more than 25,000 people Saturday for a nationwide day of protest known as the the Women’s March. People wore pink hats, also referred to as “pussy hats,” in support of women and carried signs that read: “Love Not Hate Makes America Great” and “Stop the War on Women.” The march began at San Jose City Hall and shut down streets and paseos on the way to Plaza de Cesar Chavez, where music played and speakers railed against President Donald Trump, who took office just a day prior.
The Women’s March, according to organizers, was designed to bring people together to support and inspire one another while celebrating and protecting the diversity of the U.S. The march in Washington D.C. brought out an estimated 676,000 people—far more than the number of people who attended Trump’s swearing-in ceremony Friday—and other marches drew crowds well exceeding expectations.
“I’ve seen signs that say ‘I’m here for’ whatever the reason is, one sign is not enough,” San Jose resident Esther Ynzunza said. “We need all of these people that are here to take action, and I’m here to start.”
Men, women and children of all ages gathered at San Jose City Hall at 10am and made their way to San Fernando and Fourth Street, where they began to march an hour later. The crowd shouted “No hate, no fear, everyone is welcome here,” sang the national anthem and “This Land is Your Land,” as well as a rendition of “This Little Light of Mine,” changing the lyrics to say: “Don’t let it Trump, I’m gonna let it shine.”
At Plaza de Cesar Chavez, guest speakers, live music and food trucks awaited. City Council members, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, State Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) and a host of community organizers and activists spoke to the crowd, sharing pride over the turnout and hope for the future. Kalra noted that it was the largest demonstration in the city’s history, but others noted that the 2006 immigration rally drew close to six figures.
In his comments, Mayor Liccardo thanked the man who made Saturday possible: President Trump. Followed by booing from the crowd, the mayor reminded everyone of the reason they gathered.
“We are united,” Liccardo said. “Here in San Jose, we are united.”
Beyond women’s rights, participants and speakers rallied for the LGBTQ, Muslim and Immigrant communities, amongst others.
The march was a family affair for many, as husbands and children accompanied wives and mothers. Women held signs that read “Nasty Women Unite” and men wore shirts that read “Bad Hombres.”
“I stand here as a man, as a husband, as a father, as a brother, as an uncle. I stand here for the women in my life, for every woman,” said Ignacio Cortes, of Milpitas. “Now more than ever we need to support each other and stand united.”
Standing next to his wife and three children, one boy and two girls, Cortes added, “It is an honor for me to take part in something so moving and so important.”
It took more than an hour for people to march from City Hall to Plaza de Cesar Chavez, where they were met with a celebratory mood. In one of the more joyous moments of the event, people across the park broke into dance and song as Whitney Houston’s song “I'm Every Woman” played from loud speakers.
“It’s funny, because we marched last weekend in the march for immigrant rights down here, which was lovely and very small,” said Jennifer Myhre, a member of the Sacred Heart Community Service chapter Showing Up For Racial Justice. “I was shocked at how many folks are here.”
Rally participants encouraged people to continue to stay united, confront discrimination and join organizations to mobilize their efforts.
“I feel like I’ve sat on the sidelines for too long, and so I feel like this horrible thing happened and I didn’t do enough,” Brobst said. “So, I needed to get out and do something. We all needed to.”
For Ynzunza, participating in the Women’s March meant more than walking a few blocks for the purpose of change. She hopes this day will bring true actions and change across the country.
“I vote, but what else can I do?” Ynzunza said. “I can show up. I can be a voice. I can be a name. I can be a face and if it didn’t start before, it starts now. It’s time for women to stand up, we’ve roared but it’s time for us to get louder, show up in masses and show what we can do.”
The story has been updated.