Thousands rally for women’s rights in Downtown Orlando

Photo by Daniel Bair. An activist carries a large LGBT pride flag. It represents one of the many egalitarian causes on display at the Central Florida Women’s Rally in Lake Eola Park.

Citizens of Orlando gathered Saturday to rally in solidarity with global protests for women’s rights at Lake Eola in Downtown Orlando.

The rally, hosted at the Walt Disney Amphitheater in Lake Eola Park, had over 8,000 people in attendance, including members of the University of Central Florida’s chapters of the National Organization for Women and College Democrats.

“We were looking for the College Democrats and other UCF students, and it was really difficult to navigate through the crowd,” said Josafat Alvarez, 19, president of NOW at UCF. “But, at the same time, you can’t really get mad because you’re meeting other people who want to be part of this movement.”

Democratic District 4 Commissioner Patty Sheehan commenced the speaking portion of the event with a proclamation declaring the day “Orlando Women’s Call to Action Day.” Members of the Orlando community converged around the amphitheater to hear prominent local feminist speakers, including disability activists Tiffany Namey and Sherrie Brunn; Planned Parenthood of South and Central Florida spokeswoman Anna Eskamani; and Vivian Rodriguez, director of outreach for Democratic Florida District 09 Congressman Darren Soto.

“When all Americans are treated equally, each one of us will be more free,” Eskamani said. “And, that is the purpose of Planned Parenthood: To assure all people that no matter who you are, who you love, or how much money you make, you will always have access to full reproductive health, and yes, that includes safe and legal access to abortion.”

The rally focused on representing issues that make up the umbrella of intersectional feminism, a joining of feminism with social movements advocating for equality for all races, religions, sexual orientations and disabilities, with speakers representing each group. A recurring theme of all the speeches was encouraging people in the crowd who believe in their cause to run for office and get involved in every level of the political process.

“I think the message of pushing our young leaders to get involved in politics will always be relevant and necessary,” said Michael Hodapp, 20, president of the College Democrats. “I would always love to run for office one day if I was truly prepared to lead. If anything, this rally gave me more reasons to continue to work on becoming a strong leader for the betterment of the community.”

Though the event coordinators encouraged rally goers not to carry signs disparaging any political figure or cause, many carried signs and shouted chants against President Donald Trump and his cabinet. Cries of “Love Trumps hate” and “Not my president” were a significant part of the crowd’s chants. One of the largest targets of ire aside from Trump was his education secretary pick Betsy DeVos, whose name drew boos from the crowd during a speech from Namey and Brunn.

Although event organizers didn’t get the necessary permits to organize a march through the streets of Downtown Orlando, the event concluded with a “solidarity walk,” a proxy march wherein protesters walked around the perimeter of Lake Eola carrying signs and chanting in solidarity with the women’s march on Washington, D.C.