Rain did not deter an estimated 225 people who marched from Olympia’s Sylvester Park to the steps of the state Capitol where abortion rights demonstrators rallied in celebration of International Women’s Day.
Demi Wetzel held an umbrella over each speaker while they addressed the crowd, leading chants in between speeches.
“Not the church, not the state,” she chanted.
“Women must decide our fate,” the crowd replied.
Wetzel, a volunteer with the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), said she has been to lots of marches and rallies in Seattle. She organized one herself in December.
“People in powerful positions right now are not listening to our voices,” Wetzel said. “More women need to run for office and take positions in leadership.”
She said she was proud to see people of all ages join the demonstration despite the rain.
Tiffany Hankins, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, said she specifically wanted to see the success of legislation expanding paid family leave and access to contraceptives.
“Progress needs to happen faster here in Washington state because the rest of the country is moving backwards,” Hankins said. “The federal administration is threatening huge rollbacks of reproductive rights and if Washington state does not pass pro-active legislation, then we are essentially going backwards.”
She said organizing and participating in rallies is normal for NARAL but the “People’s Filibuster” was a new installment. This part of the demonstration invited people to address the crowd inside the Legislative Building to get input from supporters on the direction of the organization as well as to gain the attention of lawmakers.
Patti Gorman, who works at Seattle Central College helping students get involved in community service, said she has been especially motivated to involve herself in activism since the presidential election, and she wants to see more accommodations for pregnant women in the workplace. She said she is particularly disappointed to see bills aimed at restricting access to abortion.
“Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and when state legislatures try to obstruct it,” Gorman said, “to me that is unethical.”
The Olympia march was among the many events marking International Women’s Day around the world. Many American women stayed home from work, joined rallies or wore red Wednesday to demonstrate how vital they are to the U.S. economy.
The Day Without a Woman protest in the U.S. was put together by organizers of the vast women’s marches that drew more than 1 million Americans the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
The turnout on the streets this time was much smaller in many places, with crowds often numbering in the hundreds. There were no immediate estimates of how many women heeded the call to skip work.
“Trump is terrifying. His entire administration, they have no respect for women or our rights,” said 49-year-old Adina Ferber, who took a vacation day from her job at an art gallery to attend a demonstration in New York City. “They need to deal with us as an economic force.”
The U.S. event – inspired in part by the Day Without an Immigrant protest held last month – was part of the U.N.-designated International Women’s Day. There were rallies in Warsaw, Rome, Tokyo and Madrid.
Germany’s Lufthansa airline arranged for six all-female crews to fly into Berlin. Sweden’s women’s soccer team replaced the names on the backs of the players’ jerseys with tweets from Swedish women. Finland announced a new $160,000 International Gender Equality Prize.
A crowd of about 1,000 people, the vast majority of them women, gathered on New York’s Fifth Avenue in the shadow of Trump Tower. Women wore red and waved signs reading “Nevertheless she persisted,” “Misogyny out of the White House now” and “Resist like a girl.”
In Washington, more than 20 Democratic female representatives walked out of the Capitol to address a cheering crowd of several hundred people. Dressed in red, the lawmakers criticized efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi encouraged more women to go into politics, saying, “You have marched for progress. Now you must run for office.”
In New York, a statue of a fearless-looking girl was placed in front of Wall Street’s famous charging bull sculpture. The girl appeared to be staring down the animal. A plaque at her feet read: “Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.”
As part of the Day Without a Woman protest, women were also urged to refrain from shopping.
Some criticized the strike, warning that many women cannot afford to miss work or find child care. Organizers asked those unable to skip work to wear red in solidarity.
Trump took to Twitter to salute “the critical role of women” in the U.S. and around the world. He tweeted that he has “tremendous respect for women and the many roles they serve that are vital to the fabric of our society and our economy.”
First lady Melania Trump marked the day by hosting a luncheon at the White House for about 50 women.
The White House said none of its female staff members skipped work in support of International Women’s Day.
Women make up more than 47 percent of the U.S. workforce and are dominant among registered nurses, dental assistants, cashiers, accountants and pharmacists, according to the census.
They make up at least a third of physicians and surgeons, and the same with lawyers and judges. Women also account for 55 percent of all college students.
At the same time, American women earn 80 cents for every dollar a man makes. The median income for women was $40,742 in 2015, compared with $51,212 for men, according to census data.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
A Day Without A Woman: https://www.womensmarch.com/womensday/