A sea of people — some donning bright pink hats and many carrying handmade signs — swarmed downtown Las Vegas on Saturday morning to celebrate the empowerment of women and demand more progress in the protection of women’s rights.
The Empowering Women March began on North Ninth Street, near Ogden Avenue, and snaked along the sidewalks lining Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard, ending at the steps of the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse.
Veronica McKinney, 24, marched because she wants to see more female representation in the STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — fields.
“I’m an engineer, and there’s two women in my whole entire department of 50,” said McKinney, who works for Scientific Games in Las Vegas. “And I’m one of them.”
McKinney later corrected herself and said there are six women in her department in total but only three with engineering degrees.
Shelby Thompson, McKinney’s friend, marched with her 3-year-old daughter in mind.
“I have a child, and she needs to grow up in a world where she’s safe,” said Thompson, 24. “And right now she’s not.”
Scores of women, men and children chanted, carrying signs with slogans such as, “I am woman, hear me roar,” and “I march so that women one day won’t have to.”
March organizer Ashlee Harris, 31, said she helped plan the Empowering Women March after the originally planned Women’s March was canceled because of a conflict among its leaders. Harris hoped to provide a safe place for people who feel helpless, but want change.
She said it was the first march she had ever attended, and she hosted it.
“Sometimes you don’t know what to do. It’s not that you don’t want to help, you just don’t know how,” Harris said. “I love the grassroots effect of this march, because it doesn’t matter what you’ve done before. … You have to start somewhere.”
In contrast, Terri Nordby, 66, said she has been participating in marches since the late 1960s. She marched in the past to protest the Vietnam War and to demand access to abortions.
“I can’t believe I’m still out here doing this,” she said, holding a sign that said on one side, “The future is female,” and on the other side, “Still marching, still rising.”
Nordby said women’s rights are under attack by lawmakers.
“They want to do away with birth control and abortion,” she said. “They need to keep the laws off our bodies. Our bodies belong to us.”
Jean Perry-Jones, 67, said that women’s rights are human rights and that access to birth control and abortion is a matter of safety.
“If women have an unplanned pregnancy and are going to seek an abortion regardless, it shouldn’t be this hard,” Perry-Jones said. “It should be a last resort, but it should be a resort that is available.”
Ashley Lesieur, 30, of Las Vegas, went to the first Women’s March in Washington D.C. She said she attended that march because she was angered by the way President Donald Trump had talked about women and sexual assault against women.
Saturday’s march in Las Vegas felt more triumphant, she said.
“This year we get to celebrate how many women were elected to the Congress,” Lesieur said. “We’re gaining traction with more representation in the government, but there’s still more to do.”
Lesieur said there’s at least one thing she can think of that would give women more representation and power in government.
“Specifically, I’d like to see a woman be president in 2020.”