FAIRBANKS—About 2,000 people gathered in subzero temperatures Saturday morning for the Fairbanks edition of the Women’s March, joining events across the state, nation and around the world.
The Fairbanks event, the Farthest North Women’s March on Washington, was headquartered at Raven Landing senior living complex.
Marchers walked to the nearby Ryan Middle School parking lot and back in a continuous loop as passing cars honked and waved. The intense cold drove many to seek refuge inside the senior community’s meeting space for a quick warm-up before braving the elements for another round.
The diversity of the messages on the marchers’ signs reflected the event’s purpose as a peaceful, inclusive gathering to show solidarity and promote civil rights.
Signs included such sentiments as “Save health care”; “I march for science — it’s not just a liberal thing”; “Our rights aren’t up for grabs and neither are we”; “Keep Paris climate treaty”; “Human needs, not corporate greed” and “I support Planned Parenthood.”
The makeup of the crowd was as diverse as the signs they carried. Women and men of all ages and ethnicities pushed strollers, led dogs and herded children along as they filed down Cowles Street and across Airport Way. All were bundled up for the cold, with many sporting the pink knitted hats that have become an emblem of the Women’s March movement.
The mood was upbeat even though many of the marchers expressed deep concerns about the future.
Leif Thompson and his mother, Dorothy, who carried a sign reading, “Trump turned me into an activist,” said they were marching because “it seemed like the thing to do in the current political climate. We wanted to do something positive.”
Lesa Meath marched with her teenage daughter.
“I’m here because I love my planet, and because I’m an American and a mom and an educator,” Meath said. “I wanted to come out and support a strong, positive message.”
Meath’s daughter, Breanne, said, “I just wanted to show my community that, whoever feels left out, we’re still here for them. They’re not getting left behind.”
Laurel Dietz carried a sign reading “I march because of racism, bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia and climate change. Compassion and tolerance shouldn’t just be liberal values.”
“My friend made the sign but these are things I believe in, too. That’s exactly what bought me out here,” Dietz said.
Donna Cole said she was concerned for future generations.
“I want to have a healthy environment — mental and physical — for my grandchildren and descendants, and everybody else’s descendants. Equal treatment and equal rights,” Cole said.
The event included entertainment, guest speakers and a live feed of the Washington march. Volunteers from local advocacy organizations staffed a row of tables filled with petitions, informational fliers and sign-up sheets for workshops and interest groups.
The crowd grew so large that organizers had to ask those who could withstand the cold to move outside the Raven Landing Community Center to avoid causing the city fire marshal to shut down the event.
The Women’s March on Washington was organized for the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration as a way to raise awareness of women’s rights, racism, the environment and others issues that could be affected by the new administration. The march spawned sister protests across the nation and around the globe, including in 17 Alaska communities.
Contact staff writer Dorothy Chomicz at 459-7582. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMcrime.