Thousands of people gathered at St. Paul’s Union Depot on Sunday to celebrate Women’s March Minnesota’s second annual event.
The Twin Cities took a different approach this year to the occasion — hosting an indoor event focused on community activism rather than a march from the cathedral to the Capitol. More than 20 local nonprofits set up booths at the Hear Our Voice event in Union Depot to educate visitors and encourage them to sign up as volunteers.
The first hour of the event was dedicated to an “action hour” where nonprofits could engage with the community. Each nonprofit offered a sign-up sheet for guests to seek information about the organization or volunteer opportunities.
“We have all of these nonprofits here today because we have a partnership with them all, and we want to encourage the community to engage with them,” Women’s March Minnesota board chair Jammi Hansen Blair said.
Hansen Blair said the event offered the community a chance to get involved in ways the previous march couldn’t.
“We want to get people committed. We’re hosting Hear Our Voice to get out the vote. We’re here to study up, speak up and show up,” she said.
Women’s March Minnesota staff and volunteers distributed “commitment cards” throughout the event for participants to document their goals for getting involved with nonprofits.
Though marches were successful in past years, Hansen Blair said the goal of the event was to further establish a movement.
“We are going from a march to a movement,” emcee Nancy Lyons said throughout the event.
Hear Our Voice — with 25,000 in attendance — sold out tickets, which were free with a suggested donation of $20.
Among those in attendance were a number of political candidates running for local office, including LaDonna Redmond, a candidate for Hennepin County Commissioner District 3.
“I’m here to inspire and support the other women who are running for office and to engage with voters,” she said.
Redmond compared the transition from a march to the Hear Our Voice event to the Civil Rights Movement.
Activists didn’t just march, Redmond said, but performed sit-ins, voted and took an active role in the organizations that mattered to them.
The transition from a march to a movement was a reason some decided to attend. University of Minnesota junior Natalie Wimmer said she never attended a Women’s March Minnesota event until this year.
“I just felt like [marches] weren’t as productive as I wanted them to be, but this event is more action-oriented,” she said.
Wimmer wanted to get involved, learn more about how to engage with local nonprofits and connect with politicians.
“It’s been really inspirational to see how we can take that next step of action to turn the march into a movement,” she said.