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St. Louis Women's March draws thousands downtown

Updated Jan. 22 at 1:20p.m. with an estimated count — A crowd at least 10,000 strong stretched for blocks in downtown St. Louis Saturday morning as people marched from Union Station to the Gateway Arch one day after Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America.

Organized in conjunction with the Women's March on Washington in the nation's capitol, the event drew people passionate about women's rights as well as racial justice, equality for the LGBTQ community and those concerned about discrimination based on religion or immigration status.

From signs to chants to the speeches delivered during the rally, messages of worry over the impact Donald Trump presidency's might have on these social justice issues echoed and reverberated across the packed Luther Ely Smith Square stretching between the Arch and the Old Courthouse, where Dred and Harriet Scott sued for their freedom.

Police said Sunday roughly 12,000 people took part in the event.

Jane Wisniewski said seeing everyone participating uplifted her spirits.

“I was in kind of a state depression after this all went down and now I’m ready to be involved,” said Wisniewski, who’s 63 and lives in Webster. “I’m going to actually demonstrate more. I’m going to find a place where I can speak my voice, get more involved in politics. I never wanted to before, but now I have to.”

Wisniewski said her main concern was protection for immigrants.

A number of men also participated in the St. Louis Women's March January 21, 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

“The gentleman who is now our president has been nothing but a derogatory person. He’s an egomaniac misogynist. He’s a buffoon and I don’t want him representing me, Winiewski said.

“I’ll do this until I’m 90, I don’t care. Now I want to protest. I protested in the 60s a little bit, but we were teenagers then. But now it matters. It matters for my children and it matters for the world.”

Standing next to her, Paula Crocker said Donald Trump was a racist and she was also motivated to fight for voting rights and abortion rights.

The St. Louis Women’s March was initially criticized because all of the original organizers were white women.

Zenique Gardner-Perry said that as a black woman she was concerned by that fact.

“But I also think that we need to show up, we need to show that we are also a voice and that we need to be heard,” Gardner-Perry said. “I think that there’s an erasure of black women and this monolithic idea of who we are and there needs to be a lot more different representations of us and acceptance of us in all of our different variety.”

A photographer lifts his video camera to stay ahead of the crowd during the St. Louis Women's March January 21, 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

“I definitely think that we have to fight a little harder, we have to scream a lot louder and we have to be more present in order to have us be considered in this fight,” Gardner-Perry added.

Gardner-Perry works at Safe Connections, a domestic violence prevention and counseling agency. She said she marched to show her concern for equal treatment of women and access to health care.

During the event, calls for racial justice and solidarity were prevalent among the majority white crowd, from the signs to the chants to the speeches at the rally.

A black poet, a Muslim woman and an LGBT activist were among the first speakers during the rally.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and state Sen. Maria Chapelle-Nadal also spoke to the crowd.

Follow Camille on Twitter: @cmpcamille.

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