They marched. Now, they act

Thousands walk through downtown at the 2018 March on Bellingham

People carry a variety of signs as they march through downtown Bellingham on Saturday, Jan. 20, in Bellingham.
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People carry a variety of signs as they march through downtown Bellingham on Saturday, Jan. 20, in Bellingham.

A cancer patient. A student. A business owner. A mother. Those were just four of the thousands that converged on downtown for this year’s March on Bellingham Saturday.

Hundreds donned the pink hats that were touted as a sign of resistance, while others held signs referencing the numerous social movements and political action that has occurred over the last year. Many wore rainbow flags on their backs, or pins on their shirts and one woman braved the biting wind in a short-sleeved suffragette outfit.

Sasha Steiner, 30, marched last year in Los Angeles, but said she appreciated the feeling of Bellingham’s march.

“I’m just here to have my voice be heard. Here it feels more like a community. I think in L.A. there were so many numbers, which the numbers sends a message, but the community here, it feels really like a family,” Steiner said. “We’re all together. I think it’s a tough time and just knowing that we have each other, at least in our Bellingham community, just gives us a sense of security.”

Steiner’s statements were echoed by several other marchers. Andrea, Day, 34, said she was proud to be in a community that supported progressive ideas, adding it was “very Bellingham.” She said she had a to-do list for turning marching into taking action.

Patricia Lenssen, 37, who marched alongside Day, said she was proud to be in a community where the march and its values were supported, rather than fought against. Lenssen carried a sign with her that read “Our rights are not up for grabs. Neither are we.”

Many of the signs held by other marchers referenced immigration, sexual assault/harassment, President Donald Trump and the White House, women’s rights, LGBTQ and minority rights, healthcare, environmental issues and a myriad of other causes.

Critics have said this year’s march lacked focus, but others have said the emphasis is on capitalizing on the movement’s momentum and translating the energy into victories in the ballot boxes during this year’s midterm elections.

The local march was just one of thousands held across the nation on the 1-year anniversary of Trump’s inauguration.

Bellingham Police estimated the crowd ranged in size from 2,000 to 2,500 people, noting it was smaller than last year’s record-breaking turnout.

March on Bellingham

Erin Lys Jensen, 20, was one of six women who helped organize this year’s march. She said it’s a way to stay optimistic and to make change.

“I really felt the march cultivated hope in myself and a sense that the community around me cares about the same issues I do. I think we can come together for a really powerful statement,” Jensen said.

Before the event started, hundreds crowded in front of City Hall, spilling over into the library lawn and nearby streets to hear several speeches, songs and drumming.

There was a diverse age range of young and old, from babies on their parents backs to those marching with walkers. Dozens of people also brought their dogs.

Throughout the march, people chanted various phrases or sang songs and played uplifting music. By the time the tail end of the march was past City Hall, around 11:30 a.m., the marchers at front had already completed the mile-long route. Many milled about afterward or took advantage of the food trucks that showed up.

Protesters gather outside city hall and walk through the streets at the Women's March on Bellingham on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 in Bellingham. The march followed the lead of protests nationwide including cities of Seattle, Los Angeles and Washingto

Many young marchers, including Nick Dagestino, 22, said they were looking forward to educating themselves on how things work politically in Washington and to find ways to get involved and spread awareness. Alec Willis, a 19-year-old Western Washington University student, said he was planning to take his enthusiasm back to his home state of Montana to help with Congressional elections.

Brooke Berkompas, 24, said she was proud to march in a progressive and forward-thinking town and hopes it translates into change.

“I’m here because I feel it’s important to be in the space of community with other women and other allies and stand tall and figure out what it means to be a woman and to explore that inclusive definition,” Berkompas said.

There will be a day of action Sunday for those in Whatcom and Skagit counties, organized by the PNW People’s Movement Assembly, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Bellingham High School. Details about the event and agenda for the day can be found on their facebook page.

Denver Pratt: 360-715-2236, @DenverPratt