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In a year, Women’s March Napa Valley has grown from reactive demonstration to a proactive organization, encouraging people to not only protest but to vote, volunteer, lobby and, in general, be more informed and involved.

“I think it was a very different feel (this year),” said Sadie Leslie, first grade teacher and Napa resident. There was more anger last year, she said, because people were still mourning the election. But this year, she said, the Women’s March was more about action.

On Jan. 21, 2017, thousands took to the streets and flooded downtown Napa’s Veterans Memorial Park, wearing pink cat-eared “pussyhats” and carrying signs, many of which dumped on newly elected President Donald Trump. It was one of the largest demonstrations Napa has ever seen.

Much of the same was seen on Saturday during the march’s anniversary, but in a more organized, more mobilizing way.

Just hours after the government shutdown, demonstrators met in front of Napa City Hall on School Street, which was closed for the event, at 10 a.m. From there, they marched down Third Street to the Napa Valley Expo, where they were met with drumming.

Multiple nonprofits, including NEWS Domestic Violence & Sexual Abuse Services and Planned Parenthood, were stationed at the Expo giving out information and signing people up to email lists. There was even a voter registration table.

“What we need from you is to stay informed and involved all year long,” Irit Weir, a Women’s March Napa Valley organizer, said pointing to the nonprofit area.

“Take action however you can,” said keynote speaker Laura Lopez, echoing the theme of the day.

“We as Napa residents … must fully embrace the First Amendment to change these static immigration laws and move the elected in the right direction regardless of who’s in control,” Lopez said.

Civil engagement, she said, can be anything from voting, lobbying, protesting and phone banking to disobeying laws – when called for.

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Organizers and speakers advocated for women’s rights and equality as well as protecting the rights of immigrants. Napa County’s affordable housing concerns were also brought up.

“Growing up in this valley, I witnessed the economic inequities at a very young age,” Karla Enedina Gómez-Pelayo, a keynote speaker, told the crowd. One of her first jobs, she said, was helping her mother clean mansions – some of them with unoccupied guest houses or entire playgrounds. At home, she saw her parents struggle financially and eventually lose their home.

“I cannot afford to live here, my family cannot afford to live here, and the very people who sustain our community either cannot afford to live here or already have been pushed out,” Gómez-Pelayo said. “The cost of wealth in the Napa Valley cannot be poverty, we must do better.”

Women’s March Napa Valley is part of a national movement seeking to unify and empower individuals standing for women’s rights, civil liberties, social justice and human rights. Anniversary marches took place in cities across the world this weekend.

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Public Safety Reporter

Maria Sestito is the Napa Valley Register public safety reporter. She covers breaking news as well as crime and courts. Maria came to the Napa Valley Register in 2015 after working at as a reporter and photographer at The Daily News in Jacksonville, NC.