Hundreds take to Iowa City streets for Women's March

'Do not just post on Facebook and send tweets. Show up'

Mazahir Salih (left), newly elected to the Iowa City Council, urges participants in Iowa City’s Women’s March on Saturday to “be physically present for the things you believe in.” She poke to the marchers gathered on the Ped Mall. (Mary Mathis/freelance)
Mazahir Salih (left), newly elected to the Iowa City Council, urges participants in Iowa City’s Women’s March on Saturday to “be physically present for the things you believe in.” She poke to the marchers gathered on the Ped Mall. (Mary Mathis/freelance)

IOWA CITY — A crowd of more than 1,000 people took to Iowa City’s streets Saturday for the second Women’s March, joining marchers across the country and around the world in a day of activism and protest that marked both the anniversary of the first Women’s March and the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

At one point, the front of the Iowa City march caught up with the back, forming an unbroken chain of protesters bearing signs and pink hats on a square route covering six blocks around downtown Iowa City.

“We will be seen, and we will be heard,” said Mazahir Salih, newly elected member of the Iowa City Council, in her keynote address before the march. “I am a woman, an immigrant, I am Muslim, and I am American and Iowan … I have been told I am the first Sudanese-American to hold office in the whole United States. I have been told I’m the first, but I’m not going to be the last.”

She quoted Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress, in 1968, and the first black woman to seek the nomination for president in a major party, in 1972.

“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair,” she said. “We are women, and we are strong. And if we do the work, we’ve got this … After today, do not wait around for next November. Be strong. Be physically present for the things you believe in. Do not just post on Facebook and send tweets. Show up. Bring your folding chair … and keep fighting.”

The first Women’s March a year ago happened in response to Trump’s inauguration, when millions of women and men poured into the streets in cities and small towns across the country. Iowa City school board member Ruthina Malone told the crowd she was inspired to run for office after the 2016 presidential election, and she encouraged other women to do the same.

“I wanted to be an agent of change to ensure all women had a voice,” she said. “My successful school board run gave me an opportunity to show my daughter and her friends as well as other minority girls that anything is possible. And that we all have a right to be heard and seen.”

On the Pedestrian Mall where marchers gathered, volunteers at a voter registration table stayed busy. Voter registration is the central message of the national Women’s March happening Sunday in Las Vegas, with the theme of Power to the Polls. That event kicks off a national campaign to register voters in swing states before the 2018 midterm elections.

Marcher Amanda Parsons, a senior at Iowa City West High School, said she already was looking forward to voting in November.

“I think it’s really important, especially for the next generation that’s just able to vote, to get out and be involved,” she said.

She and other students from local high schools led the march, walking and waving banners at the front of the crowd.

“This is a good opportunity to come out and show people that women are strong and powerful and we have a place,” said West High senior Aisha Kazembe. “I think it’s definitely important for people from all groups to show solidarity for women’s rights.”

As the march wrapped up, a group of the young women led a call-and-response chant with bullhorns.

“Show me what the future looks like. Show me what America looks like,” they called.

“This is what the future looks like,” marchers yelled back. “This is what America looks like.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8339; alison.gowans@thegazette.com

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