When 87-year-old Mary Tanasse was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer, she had one goal: she wanted to be part of the Jan. 21 Women’s March on Olympia.
She joined a huge crowd Saturday — Olympia police estimated 10,000 people — at the state Capitol. She was joined by about 35 family members, some of who flew in from Michigan and California.
“I’ve been waiting 87 years to do this and I made it,” Tanasse said. “I’m on hospice but I still made it.”
Tanasse said a desire for equality drew her to the march. She hopes her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will have access to equal pay, quality healthcare and a good education.
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A sea of umbrellas and pink “pussy hats” covered the Capitol lawn at 10 a.m., and marchers continued to pour in from all sides as speakers addressed the crowd. Many marchers carried signs printed with messages about women’s rights, President Donald Trump, and more. Several people carried rainbow flags.
Signs read, “Women’s rights are human rights,” “Girls just want to have fundamental rights,” “Jesus was a feminist,” “Why do guns have more rights than women?” and “I stand with Planned Parenthood.”
One of the speakers, Black Alliance of Thurston County co-founder Karen Johnson, urged the crowd not to be apathetic, and to instead keep working toward equality and justice.
“Sexism and racism are still alive, but they will only live if you allow them to,” Johnson said.
She praised the crowd for showing up despite the rain.
But, the rain stopped just as the crowd began marching on Columbia Street, toward downtown Olympia. Initially, organizers had planned to march to the Olympia Farmers Market, turn around and head back to the Capitol Campus. Instead, marchers turned right onto Legion Way, then walked up Capitol Way to the campus.
Olympia police officers closed off the road. Many passing marchers stopped to thank officers for being there.
Officer George Clark said he enjoys working at events such as the Women’s March. He said the crowd was happy and peaceful for the duration of the march.
“I think this is probably the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen out here,” Clark said.
Many of the people who marched Saturday spent weeks preparing — knitting, crocheting and sewing hats.
Olympia resident Karen Reese said she made six pussy hats while watching Rachel Maddow.
“I’m female, I’m Native American and this is my country,” Reese said. “I don’t want things to change, to get worse. We’ve worked too hard to get where we are.”
Her friend Stella Jennings, who wore one of Reese’s hats, agreed.
“People can’t just walk all over us,” Jennings said. “We need to stand up for our daughters and our granddaughters.”
The march ended at the Capitol steps, where more speakers addressed the crowd. Organizers passed around pink goblets to collect money to test untested rape kits.
As the event wound down, the group chanted, “We are one!”
Event organizer Caitlin Gallup told The Olympian last week that she was pleasantly surprised by how many people planned to attend the march. At the time, organizers estimated about 2,500 people would attend. But the group’s Facebook page took off, and more than 4,000 people indicated online they planned to attend.
Following the event, organizers shared a message thanking the marchers: “From the bottom of our heats, we THANK YOU for making this amazing event the beautiful experience we all shared.”
Gallup said that the march wasn’t an “Anti-Trump” event, as organizers didn’t want to be limited by that message. Instead, anyone who believes in equality — racial equality, gender equality, etc. — was encouraged to attend.
“This event is about a whole lot more than equal pay,” Gallup said. “It’s about people having access to the things they need, the things they deserve.”