15,000 Rally In Montpelier For Women's March, Forcing I-89 Exit Closures

Jan 21, 2017

For a few hours on Saturday afternoon, Vermont's capital was a sea of pink. An estimated 15,000 people came out for the local Women's March, many wearing pink hats knitted especially for the occasion in a very particular shape.

Kayne Strippe of Waterbury Center was among the marchers wearing "pussyhats," a reference to lewd comments Trump made in a 2005 Access Hollywood tape leaked last October.

"I'm wearing it in solidarity with my sisters, to show hope in the future," said Strippe. "Because we're pretty freaked out right now. I am. I'm freaked out."

Strippe says she came to the march because she's concerned about what a Trump presidency could mean for civil rights. Among her fears are far-right appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court and anti-immigration policies.

"I'm afraid America is going to go back 50 years. I marched back in the '60s. This is like then," Strippe said.

See more VPR photos from the Women's Marches in Montpelier and Washington, D.C.

Other marchers held signs lampooning Trump — the pussy theme was prevalent — but people also held messages championing women's rights, social justice and environmental issues.

"I'm afraid America is going to go back 50 years. I marched back in the '60s. This is like then." — Kayne Strippe of Waterbury Center

Kaitlin Quaranta of Montpelier held a sign featuring a giant cartoon cat, but said her reasons for marching were no joke. She had many reasons for marching, but chief among them was funding for Planned Parenthood.

"My body is not up for legislation," Quaranta said.

Quaranta and other attendees walked the half-mile from Montpelier High School to the Statehouse in solidarity with similar marches in Washington, D.C., and other major cities.

The march was followed by what organizers called a "Unity Rally" on the steps of the Statehouse.

The march was followed by what organizers called a Unity Rally on the steps of the Statehouse, which featured speakers such as former Gov. Madeleine Kunin and Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Credit Amy Kolb Noyes / VPR

Speakers included former Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin, 2016 gubernatorial candidate Sue Minter and Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman.

The most memorable speech, however, came from  Sen. Bernie Sanders, a guest who wasn't on the bill.

"Donald Trump is a fraud, and the American people will understand this," Sanders said, to cheers from the crowd.

Sen. Bernie Sanders made a surprise appearance at the Unity Rally that followed Saturday's march in Montpelier.
Credit Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Times Argus

Sanders had more harsh words for Trump, but said he was encouraged by how many people came out to the event.

"If there is any silver lining in the horrendous victory of Mr. Trump on Nov. 8, it is that now I see in Montpelier this huge crowd," said Sanders. "I see workers, and women, and environmentalists and senior citizens. I see our people coming together."

Organizations represented at the rally included Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, 350Vermont, Vermont Works for Women, Black Lives Matter, Rights & Democracy and others.  

The slam poetry group Muslim Girls Making Change in front of the mic at Saturday's Women's March on Montpelier.
Credit Annie Russell / VPR

Montpelier officials had planned for a large crowd, but far more showed up than expected. By around noon, traffic was backed up for miles on I-89. Police closed exit ramps on I-89 at exits 7, 8, and 9 around the capital, leaving many stuck on the highway as the march got underway.

The exits were re-opened at around 3 p.m. Saturday.

For those who did make it, the rally speakers emphasized a need for more women and other marginalized people to get involved politically.

Kaitlin Quaranta said the march inspired her to speak out on issues of education, the field in which she is employed.

"I think the thing that's most important for me to take away from this is I need to get more involved," said Quaranta. "I need to raise my voice more. Especially as a woman, and especially for those that can't."