The rain hadn’t even begun yet, but First Street in front of the Oxbow Public Market was flooded on Saturday morning. An estimated 3,000 people hit the streets of downtown Napa – beginning at the Oxbow Public Market – to participate in “Women’s March Napa Valley.”
The march was one of 673 marches held around the world in solidarity with the Women’s March Washington – a movement seeking to send a message to the new White House administration that “women’s rights are human rights.”
In Napa, handwritten signs highlighted a range of issues including the environment, healthcare, women’s rights, immigrant rights, religious freedom, and education as well as the occasional blast of President Donald Trump.
People of all ages were singing and dancing – first on the sidewalks and then on the streets until they arrived at Veterans Memorial Park at about 11 a.m. for the start of some planned festivities. Some wore pink Pussyhats while others waved both the American Flag and the rainbow Pride Flag.
The park was packed and Rep. Mike Thompson, who had recently returned from Friday’s presidential inauguration in Washington D.C., began his speech as hundreds of more marchers lined the bridges on First and Third streets.
“After sitting on that dais yesterday, I’m convinced that it’s even more important that we stand up – we stand up tall,” Thompson said, “– and we make sure that this new president and this new administration understands that we’re standing up and that we’re gonna continue to stand up for the things that are right.”
“This is going to be a tough couple of years, but I want you to remember that the road to progress has never been a straight one,” he said.
He was followed by a performance of “America the Beautiful” sung by Angela Kennedy who replaced the term “brotherhood” with “motherhood,” drawing cheers from the appreciative crowd.
In addition to speakers Stephanie Der, Rev. Bonnie Dlott, and Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, local men, women and children approached the microphone to share why they attended the march and what their vision for the future is.
“My hope for the future is that we in this community can build a safe place for all people to be,” said Steve Carlson, a Vietnam veteran.
“What I want is for all of our children … to feel valued, respected, honored, encouraged, supported and, most of all, loved,” said educator Gabriela Rubio.
“Please don’t go back,” pleaded one fifth grade girl. “Let’s keep moving forward.”
Afterward, organizer Irit Weir said the event was a success despite the fact that hundreds of people started to leave as the weather got worse. Weir said she would have been happy with 500 attendees just to keep the energy up, but never in her “wildest dreams” did she expect a crowd of thousands.
She didn’t even look back to see the masses that were lined up on the bridges that morning, she said. “I was afraid that I would break down into tears.”
Weir said the march might have been one of the largest rallies held in Napa.
“It was spectacular,” said attendee James Bronk. “It was amazing from the number of people who came out and showed solidarity for this cause of women’s rights and human rights.”
Bronk said that he has lived in Napa for nearly 30 years and has never seen a crowd of that size gather here before.
“The marchers basically took over all of First Street even though they were asked not to because there were so many and they couldn’t fit on the sidewalk,” he said.
The march remained peaceful, he said, even when a pickup truck displaying “Trump” flags drove by.
“What I really liked about this was it was a very positive message and it’s a very inclusive message,” said Bronk’s wife Suzanne Becker Bronk, who also helped organize the event. “I think that’s the place we need to start.”
“We’re not there to have our message be angry,” she said. “We may personally be angry, but our message should not be angry.”
Becker Bronk said “Women’s March Napa Valley” was just the first step in starting a positive dialogue about the future.
“It’s about coming forward in positivity and overcoming this negativity,” said Tina Carpenter of Napa. “I came out here to support all rights.” The march, she said, gave her hope.