OCEANSIDE — Approximately 1,500 people gathered downtown at the Civic Center on Jan. 18 for the fourth annual North County Women’s March.
The march was first held at Palomar College in 2017 with approximately 10,000 people in attendance. Last year was the event moved to Oceanside with about 1,000 attendees.
Though the numbers have appeared to dwindle in the last few years, organizer Sue Alderson is not concerned. She noted that during the first year of the march, it was a “different time.”
Indeed, 2017 was the first year for hundreds of women’s marches being held across the country in response to President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Since then, many cities including San Diego have held annual marches.
For Alderson, this year was a particularly successful march because of how many community organizations were present and involved. Groups present at the march included environmental organizations like CleanEarth4Kids.org, religious-affiliated groups like Mosques Against Trafficking, and others like the Immigrant Justice League, the Sally Hunt Foundation, the North County LGBTQ Resource Center, Moms Against Guns, Armadillos Busqueda y Rescate and more.
“This shows that North County does have activists and they do want to be heard, and they do want to participate, and for me that makes it an incredible success,” Alderson said.
There was no physical marching down streets this year. Instead, the crowd gathered as several speakers from these different organizations called attention to issues within the community and throughout the nation.
Evie Rivera, a Palomar College student with the group Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) de Palomar, called for the crowd to remember transgender women of color who have been murdered.
“We think it’s extremely important for us to recognize that this issue is prevalent in our world today, and we want to make sure that this issue doesn’t go unnoticed,” Rivera said.
According to Rivera, in 2019 it was tracked that there were 25 deaths of transgender women, most of whom were black. She noted that number didn’t account for the cases that have gone unreported, and added that transgender women of color are often misgendered in police reports, which can delay awareness.
Leea Pronovost, the following speaker, told the audience how it affected her when she found out two of her friends had been murdered.
Pronovost recalled attending Transgender Day of Remembrance events that happen each year on Nov. 20. In Oceanside, the event is held at the library and honors murdered trans women by reading their names.
When Pronovost first started attending those remembrance events, she didn’t think it could happen to anyone she knew — until it did.
“One of the names was a really good friend,” she said. “We shared food, we shared drink, she inspired me to be who I was, and yet here she was another name on the list.”
Pronovost, who identifies as two spirit, highlighted how the double marginalization of transgender women of color makes these women more vulnerable to fatal violence.
Others called attention to issues like the separation of families at the border, sexual assault and the 2020 Census.
Arcela Nuñez-Alvarez, research director of the National Latino Research Center, said the 2020 Census is “a way of erasing us from history” and “another attempt to destroy who we are.” She also highlighted how important it is for everyone to get counted.
“The census is a way of erasing us, of making sure that our communities don’t get counted, making sure that our communities are afraid to stand up,” Nuñez-Alvarez said. “What we need to do is stand up shoulder-to-shoulder with our neighbors, with our community, so that every one of us gets counted.”
Other speakers included a group called the Ojos de Condor from Chile, which performed a flash mob calling attention to sexual assault and harassment against women and other marginalized groups.
Though the Women’s March received support from candidates running for local offices and even Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano), the event does not ask politicians or candidates to speak.
“Our belief is that (the march) is for our communities and is driven by community entities, so we don’t have elected officials speak,” Alderson said. “This is an opportunity for our grassroots folks to have a voice.”