Halfway through her speech at the 2020 Idaho Women's March on Jan. 18, Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb called on the more than 1,500 people standing at the Capitol Steps to hug and "offer praise" to the person next to them. For a brief moment, hundreds of pairs of people embraced.
"I ask you this day to celebrate, to reflect, revive, renew—and reconnect," she said.
This year marks the fourth in which throngs of people, mostly women, have rallied at the Capitol. In the past, the rally was a cry of frustration and anger at what attendees saw as a lack of respect and consideration for women's issues on the part of the administration of President Donald Trump and other figures in government. That anger was still there at this year's event, but other themes also came to the fore, like the environment, education and the plights of women from non-white or LGBTQ backgrounds—and through it all, there was a feeling of solidarity and camaraderie the grew as the event unfolded.
In full force were contingents of women of color, who had come to voice their concerns. Ileana Nuñez and her sister Noely brought signs that read "Ni Santas / Ni Putas / Solo Mujers" and "Live by the Rule of Ps: Protect Powerful Pussy." It was a show of the strength of femininity, Ileana said, but also a dig at patriarchal elements of Latino culture.
"Now that I'm at this age, I know what's going on," she said. "I'm Hispanic, and in Hispanic culture, men are very machismo, and we're trying to break that."
Nearly at the end of his first term, Trump remained at the center of many Women's March attendees' ire. Dressed as a character from Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale, Sam Devare said she has four children of her own, but won't tolerate an America or Idaho that erodes women's reproductive rights.
"Everyone should have the right to choose whether to have children, and not be forced to have children," she said, adding that "I believe that's the direction Trump's taking. We need to prevent that from happening."
Deliah Fores, a fifth grade teacher, said she worries about the state of education, and pressed for a "progressive, 21st-century curriculum" that meets the needs of every American student, regardless of the color of their skin, the faith they practice or the language they speak at home.
"I can think of no weapon more powerful than education," she said. "It is unfortunate that our politicians don't agree."
The environment also played a central role in the march, with several people saying that climate change and environmental degradation were on their minds. Speaking from the podium, former Idaho gubernatorial candidate Paulette Jordan reminded the crowd that 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of women's right to vote, marrying a century of gains for women to an environmental plea.
"In my prayers this morning, Mother Earth is crying," she told the crowd, which erupted into cheers.
As in years past, there were dissenting voices to the overall tone of the Women's March. Standing across Jefferson Street from the Capitol were groups of anti-abortion activists and a rally of MAGA Girls, which included Nora Peters, who said the group she was with wanted to send a "pro-gun pro-life, pro-Trump" message, and counter the march's tone of "victimhood."
"I'm not a victim," Peters said. "I refuse to be a victim."
Overall, however, the tone of the march was warm. Several live music performances (including singing from Buckner-Webb, Leta Harris Neustaedter, Sam Zipporah and Kayleigh Jack, who played an acoustic rendition of Katy Perry's "Roar") got people dancing; and speakers at the podium like Boise City Council Member Lisa Sanchez and United Vision for Idaho Executive Director Adrienne Evans made appeals for introspection and collaboration before making calls to action.
"We, each and every one of us, must build a 21st-century Civil Rights Movement," Evans said.