We had a super successful Women’s March On Raleigh (WMOR). Original estimates we heard near the stage were 17,000 people at WMOR while the rally was in progress. An organization that helped us organize, Ready The Ground, had estimated 30,000 on the march route. People studying aerial view pictures after the march estimated over 40,000. As another gauge, it took almost over an hour and a half for the last people to leave City Plaza.
Raleigh NOW members Sarah Moncelle, Shana Becker and Gailya Paliga were a few of the organizers of the WMOR. We pulled in our friends to help, as did other organizers.
It’s hard to tell how many people are going to something. Earlier in the week, we were using 3000 people, and later we talked about 3000-5000 people. Some organizers speculated 5000-7000 since interest on our facebook event page started growing by 1000 a day! We had programs and pledge cards printed for 3000. Didn’t want to waste paper. Then 17,000-30,000 people showed up at City Plaza, many in their pink pussy hats!
The rally at Moore Square was excellently run. We had an actual stage team in place! Our program committee chose to elevate organizations that aren’t often heard speaking to large crowds. Emcees Carly Jones and Ashley Popio were amazing! See a two page version of the final program at WMOR program twopage v3.
We included speakers, performers, and a few special appearances. Speakers included Nia Wilson of Spirit House in Durham; Yevonne Brannon, Public Schools First NC; Sarah Preston, Lillian’s List; MaryBe McMillan, AFL-CIO NC; Allison Coffman, Carolina Abortion Fund; Jenny Black, Planned Parenthood, O’Linda Watkins, NAACP-NC. Performers included Sandra Dubose, Randa McNamara, Pie Face Girls, and Lexie Hallman of Temple Beth Or. Special appearances included a high school student from Durham reading a poem, and Lior Vered reading the oath that one of our organizers, Anna Grant of Carolina Jews for Justice, wrote for this march. Larger organizations were recognized as well, including Progress NC, who also helped secure special event insurance.
Carly Jones, an emcee and also one of the event organizers, described singer Sandra Dubose’s voice as ‘made of gold’! Dubose is on stage in this picture. Lexie Hallman ended our event with a ‘Get To Work’ song.
Many of our strong speakers are quoted in article “In the Land of HB2, We Marched,” by Katy Koop, 1/22/17. Koop wrote,
“Yesterday, I didn’t march on Washington, DC but I did get the opportunity to march with 17,000 (and still counting) other men and women in the city I was born in. It was magical. I got to walk elbow to elbow past coffee shops, government buildings, museums with people in solidarity in the capitol of a state that went red for Trump this November.”
Carly Jones said from the stage at the rally,
“I am marching to show that without a doubt, women’s rights are human rights. I’m marching to show that we are the noisy majority. Aren’t we noisy y’all? We will not stay quiet. This is our state. This is our country. Us women are going to mobilize North Carolina.”
We incorporated the idea of having people pledge to do more in the future, and provided pledges online and for some of our event participants. Of course we had made 3000 pledge cards, not 30,000! We also had posters to give out and an art station at City Plaza. At Moore Square, we had a photostop areas, a major volunteer assignment area, and places for organizations to table.
The plans were gather at 10am at City Plaza. Live music at 10:15am. Chants and directions at 10:25. Step off at 10:30am. Since the crowds went for blocks and blocks, I never even saw the front of the march. They left without us! I later found out that the front of the march left early (10:15am vs 10:30), because our mass of people had stopped traffic. This News and Observer (N&O) picture shows some of our organizers and volunteers in the front line with the banners we had made for the march.
By 9am, City Plaza was wall to wall people!!! People filled the streets for blocks, and more kept coming.
Because we got permits with the Raleigh Police Dept (RPD) fewer than 120 days in advance, the RPD would only agree to a permit for the sidewalk. (Note: the national election was fewer than 120 days before our event.) Our logistics committee talked to Raleigh Police Dept repeatedly about closing the streets down to traffic and RPD didn’t want to. They said – use both sidewalks on both sides if you have to. The number of participants blew that idea out of the water!
We had trained volunteers as marshals (thank you, Ready The Ground), and we had women with bullhorns running chants all down the route. The plans were to have 2 people running chants on each block. Tara Romano of Naral Pro-Choice North Carolina and NC Women United was one of the chant leaders. She texted me at 11:45, just leaving now!
Even the day before the march, our facebook event page showed 19,000 interested, but only 10K marked they were going, and that number increased by over a thousand on both 1/19 and 1/20. In general, facebook is not a reliable gauge for who is actually going to events (from experience). So we were using 50% of those who marked ‘going’ (and half earlier that week was about 3000 people).
Below is a section of the Moore Square Crowd from maybe 30 feet in front of the stage, toward the left. The stage was surrounded by tons more people! I was wrangling people to the stage and could barely move for most of it.
I believe that more than 30,000 attended, maybe more than 40,000! And we couldn’t even vaguely fit them in Moore Square! But they filled the streets at City Plaza. Their presence, signs and energy were a beautiful thing.
And yes, they had to close the roads for us!