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At Miami Women's Rally, Capacity Crowd Spills Into the Streets

Women in South Florida united Saturday in a show of solidarity with the marchers in Washington D.C., around the country, and around the world.

Within an hour of opening its gates, the Bayfront Park amphitheater lawns and seats were filled with more than 10,000 demonstrators.

  A video posted by WLRN Public Media (@wlrn) on Jan 21, 2017 at 1:15pm PST

Crowds waiting to get inside eventually spilled onto the streets after the park reached capacity. Organizers say more than 25,000 marchers made their way through Biscayne Boulevard, from the amphitheater to the MacArthur causeway and then west onto I-95 northbound,  in a call to action for equal rights. 

Grammy-nominated spoken-word artist Rebecca Butterfly Vaughn opened the rally with a poem, which you can watch here:

Speakers included Marleine Bastien, director of FANM (Haitian Women of Miami), and former National Organization for Women president Patricia Ireland. Politicians including Coconut Grove commissioner Ken Russell and representatives from non-profits including the Florida ACLU and the Supportive Employment Rehabilitative Center gave two-minute speeches encouraging residents to get involved in the community.

Hundreds of men and women wore pink “pussyhats,” a protest fashion piece. Posters and signs called for women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and immigrant rights. Some blatantly showed their opposition to President Donald J. Trump, one day after his inauguration in Washington, D.C.

Jody Budin, a Miami resident from High Pines, protested in Washington D.C. in 1983 and 1993 for women's rights and LGBTQ rights. At Saturday’s rally she said she’s protesting for those same rights again. "I’ve been doing this a long time, you just cannot stop. Look how easily it is for your [women’s] rights to be taken away,” Budin said. “There’s a whole generation that doesn’t know what that’s like.” 

Returning protesters like Budin joined first-time demonstrators like Arianna Pena, an eighth grader at George Washington Carver Middle. She was holding a poster that referenced the “Star Wars” movie series. Her sign, with an image of Carrie Fisher’s character Princess Leia, read: “A woman’s place is in the resistance.”

“This is actually a princess who’s not weak or someone that relies on a man. Seeing her on TV was like ‘wow’ this is someone I can be like,” Pena said.

Harris Levine, from downtown Miami, came to support his wife, who works for Planned Parenthood. He said he believes men should come out and support equal rights, but Saturday was really all about women coming together. “We can’t be the problem for like 4,000 years, and all of a sudden be like ‘Hey, look at us, we’re doing our part to change things.’ I mean, there’s like a million women here who are fighting for their rights, and that’s amazing.”

Marquita Medley, an English teacher at Keys Gate Charter School in Homestead, came to the rally with a group of her friends. She said as a black female educator, she couldn't think of a better time for people to come together and fight for what they believe in. “Right now there is a lot going on as far as class, as far as race, as far as sexism and unfortunately a lot of that is caused by what our leaders have been saying,” Medley said. “It trickles down to your average population. People are beginning to mistreat each other thinking that it’s okay, and we’re kind of going backwards.”

"We started in Vietnam and civil rights, and this is just a horrible continuation" - Nancy Frank

Nancy Frank, a 74-year-old from New York, happened to be in town for the rally. She said she wants Trump’s new administration to protect women’s rights but doubts that’s what it will do. “We are just in such despair over this election and Trump getting into office, and every one of these people that he’s putting in for his top positions, that we felt that we had to just come and demonstrate,” Frank said. “We started in Vietnam and civil rights, and this is just a horrible continuation.”

Marches in Miami, West Palm Beach, Key West and throughout Florida contributed to the estimated well over a million people who marched around the world on Saturday, in hopes their message of equal rights resonates with political leaders.