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Signs and spirit abound at the 2020 Women's March Napa Valley
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Signs and spirit abound at the 2020 Women's March Napa Valley

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Juniper Erickson, 1-1/2, had her pink pussy hat on and a sign on her stroller that read, “In 16-1/2 years, I will be voting.”

Along with her mother, Erin Erickson, and her grandmother, Nina Ellliott, Juniper had come from Angwin to attend the fourth annual Women’s March Napa Valley Jan. 18. They joined a spirited gathering in front the Napa Hall of Justice for a morning of music and speeches.

Napa Police Lt. Brian Campagna estimated the crowd was 2,500 people, men, women and children, many of whom carried signs expressing what was on their minds — everything from “All of my outrage won’t fit on this sign” to “Roe, Roe, Roe your vote.”

Impeachment, the 2020 elections, gun violence, immigration, and above all, the climate crisis, were also topics for the morning. Possibly only Mother Earth garnered more cheers than Nancy Pelosi, the U.S. Speaker of the House of the Representatives, when either was mentioned.

Irit Weir is one of the event organizers who spent the past year putting together the event, the theme of which was “Power in Unity.”

She introduced the speakers as Napa police stood guard from the roof of an adjacent second-story building.

“It’s a new day and age, special events like these,” Campagna explained.

Guest speaker Emily Cantrell, a survivor of the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, described what it was like when “the music went silent and the screaming began” as the audience at a music festival realized that the popping sounds they were hearing were not fireworks but gunshots. Fifty-eight people died and hundreds were wounded.

Cantrell said she will never entirely remember how she escaped, except an unknown man near her shouted, “It’s life or death — run!” and together, they moved when the gunfire paused and hid when shots began again.

“Veterans have compared it to being on a battleground with no weapons,” she said. The aftermath changed her life forever, she added.

“A bullet doesn’t have to enter your body for you to become a victim of gun violence,” said Cantrell, now actively working for gun control. “I cannot comprehend how our country has allowed violence to become normal. Prayers and thoughts are not enough. We must take action.”

Young women from Napa also took the stage to call for action on the climate crisis. Aedyn Frazer, a Vintage High School student, sang her own rousing version of the Aretha Franklin classic “Respect,” in this case, calling for the respect to go to “Mother Earth who is the one who needs it the most ... this is her home.”

Kennedy Irvin, from New Tech High School, warned the audience that 10 years remain to take action to combat climate change. “What we are doing to the Earth is incredibly wrong,” she said. “We must find a common ground and work together, while there is time. We must listen to scientists and elect politicians who will put Earth first and ditch our single-use society.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) was in agreement with Irvin. “What a difference a year makes,” he said, noting that the House of Representatives, with its Democratic majority gained in the 2018 elections, has passed more than 400 bills on topics from gun control to health care to climate change — many awaiting action in the Senate. “If we don’t deal with climate change, everything else is moot,” he said, “because we won’t have a planet to pass on to our children.”

With Martin Luther King Jr. Day coming up on Monday, Thompson quoted the civil rights leader. “He said, ‘Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.’ Right now it is pretty dark,” he added, “But looking out here, I see a lot of stars. You made change happen through your hard work,” Thompson told the audience. “You also make great signs.”

He said the one sign he admired in particular read, “Wouldn’t it be nice if liars’ pants really did catch on fire?”

The focus of action now turns to “flipping the Senate and electing a Democratic president,” Thompson said. “If you are asking what can be done, get involved, stay involved and vote.”

Among the crowd, Napa High English teacher Laura Proffitt Schmiegel was there with her two daughters, Aurora, 2, and Trinity, 6. Trinity, she said, “understands that there is a lot that is happening — like children in cages — that is not right. We think women are the future.”

With her was another Napa High English teacher, Judy Christman, carrying a sign with the head of the president. “My name is Donald J. Trump,” it read. “And the ‘J’ stands for ‘Genius.’”

“We can’t give into despair,” she said.

Contact Sasha Paulsen at spaulsen@napanews.com or 256-2262.

Contact Sasha Paulsen at spaulsen@napanews.com or 256-2262.

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Features Editor

Sasha Paulsen has been features editor at the Napa Valley Register since 1999. A graduate of Napa High School, she studied English at UC Berkeley and St. Mary's College and earned a Masters in Journalism from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

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