Just before joining nearly 300 people in the Cortez Women’s March for Unity on Saturday, 16-year-old Annika Lewis recalled a time when she was scolded at school for wearing a tank top with thin straps.
Lewis, a Montezuma-Cortez High School student who served as a delegate to the United Nations last spring and participated in the Commission on the Status of Women, added that her grandmother used to say that the nation could not have a female president. Her pastor told her that only men can be church leaders.
“Most of the girls in our world are told they are of less value; for instance, sending teenage girls home for wearing tank tops is teaching them that their education isn’t as important and that we are nothing but sexual objects,” Lewis said.
Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk, a member of the Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1 board, said she, too, has seen the women of the world mistreated. If words from the five female speakers before the march are any indication, those days are numbered.
“They say behind every strong man is a strong woman or women, right? Well, I think this march is here to say ‘nuh-uh,’” Lopez-Whiteskunk said.
The third annual Cortez Women’s March for Unity coincided with similar marches across the country. It marks the anniversary of the January 2017 Women’s March on Washington and similar protests around the globe that brought millions of people into the streets to protest the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
Under the local theme, “We’ve Got 2020 Vision,” about 280 men and women marched around the Cortez City Park block, chanting slogans highlighting the strength of women and support of Rosa Sabido, who has lived in sanctuary at a Mancos church for more than a year.
“What do we do when Rosa’s attacked?” the crowd chanted. “Stand up and fight back.”
Signs called for the acceptance of immigrants and the protection of natural resources while others criticized Trump and the partial federal government shutdown. As the long line of marchers walked down the sidewalk along Main Street, by the Colorado Welcome Center, drivers frequently honked to show support.
Terry Wells, a Cortez resident, held a sign declaring, “I’m not usually a protester, but geez.” The sign went on to denounce racism, corruption, hate and the partial federal government shutdown. She said she stole the idea for the sign, but it fit her.
“It’s all just so overwhelming,” Wells said. “It’s like something else every day, but this gives me hope to see lots of like-minded people and the encouragement to talk civilly to people that we disagree with.”
Cortez resident Tiffanie Lake said she joined the march to make Cortez a better place. She said the area needs more diversity, and she remains hopeful.
“I have a 4-year-old daughter,” Lake said. “I have to be hopeful for her.”
Before the march took off, former Montezuma County Board of County Commissioners candidate M.B. McAfee delivered an impassioned speech, urging the attendees to take note whenever there’s an opening on a local board or an election of city council. She said there’s really only one way to make a difference.
“Don’t just march,” McAfee said. “Run.”
In Durango, about 500 marchers were escorted by police up Main Avenue from College Drive to Buckley Park. Speakers at Buckley Park spoke about women’s rights and the Trump administration, encouraging the audience of about 100 people to stand up for what they believe in.
Speakers included emcee Allie Wolfe, a Fort Lewis College student; Katie Young, Planned Parenthood Community Organizer; Ret. Navy Captain Gail Harris; Barbara McLachlan, Colorado State House Representative; and Katie Kandarian-Morris, Minister, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Durango. Each argued against policies enacted by the Trump administration, drawing “boos” from the crowd, and acknowledged the accomplishments and problems women experienced in the past year.
firstname.lastname@example.orgThe Durango Herald contributed to this article.