Catholics weighed options and many attended the Women’s March on the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
For many Catholics, horrified by what they heard as crude and demeaning language on the campaign trail, it felt like a chance to regroup and mourn.
Other Catholics, whether they voted for the new president or not, never considered rallying with people who support abortion and gay marriage.
Yet other Catholics were torn.
Lisa Stiller, a parishioner at Holy Trinity in Beaverton and a board member of Consistent Life, said she marched as a pro-life feminist to stand up for “peace and the right to have access to affordable health care, child care, decent housing and paid family leave.”
“I’m really glad I participated,” Stiller said, noting that the prevailing theme of the day was togetherness. “It was a really positive experience.”
Stiller said it’s difficult to get the pro-life message across in Oregon, but that helping people hear the message begins with engagement.
The Portland march, in which as many as 100,000 people participated, was one of the largest in the city’s history. People streamed across the Hawthorne Bridge and other routes despite a steady, soaking rain.
It was one of 673 events related to the march in Washington, D.C., which drew an estimated 500,000 walkers.
Allison Rael of Portland, raised in a Catholic family in Wichita Falls, Texas, said she took part because it was a chance to speak up for her mother, her grandmother and children yet unborn that women should be respected, not denigrated and certainly not have sexual assault joked about or excused as “locker room talk.”
The Portland march wasn’t the only one in Oregon. Ashland police estimated that 15,000 marched there. There were also marches or rallies in Astoria, Bend, Brookings, Coos Bay, Elkton, Eugene, Florence, Halfway, Joseph, LaGrande, McMinnville, Newport, Pendleton, Salem, Sandy, Tillamook and Welches.
At the Portland march, people said they’d come for church-supported values such as protecting immigrant families, respect for women, refugees, workers’ rights, health care, Social Security, protecting the environment, and standing against racism, anti-Semitism, fear of Muslims and sexual assault.
Pro-life in D.C.
Many people at the marches also supported legalized abortion and did not allow for opposing views. Students for Life had wanted to cosponsor the Washington, D.C., march. National organizers denied their request. About 50 supporters of Students for Life marched in the nation’s capital anyway, their signs saying “Abortion betrays women.”
The group’s director of communication told USA Today that one of the pro-life marchers had been spat upon, and that her own sign had been torn to pieces.
She also said other pro-life marchers had thanked the group for being there.
Additional pro-life organizations participating in marches nationwide included Consistent Life, And Then There Were None and New Wave Feminists.
The Portland march, which was peaceful, was a family affair. Men sometimes carried signs saying, “I’m with her” surrounded by arrows pointing in all directions.
Cheers, laughter and exultant refrains swept through the crowds walking along the march’s 1.3-mile route, with people chanting refrains like “Love, not hate. That’s what makes America great!”
In the midst of the good humor, marchers spoke of their fears and concerns.
“I’m here to show my support for people who feel fearful because of what’s been said,” said Southeast Portlander Jennifer Bauer. “The rhetoric has worried me, and I’m not even an immigrant.”
Bauer came with her friend Deirdre Glynn, a St. Ignatius parishioner. “Are we really going to go backward — to racism and all that other muck?” Glynn asked. “We need to be moving forward toward more humanity, not less.”
A number of older people said they were worried about Social Security and Medicare’s survival.
Others spoke of the generations to come. “I’m here for her,” said Portlander Jackie Wygant, gesturing toward her baby granddaughter, bright-eyed in her mother’s arms. “For me it’s more about the environment.”
Portland’s march was among the largest nationwide. News organizations pegged the U.S. participation between 1 and 3 million.