As many as 100,000 demonstrators marched on the Minnesota State Capitol Saturday as part of a nationwide day of protest condemning President Donald Trump’s policies and campaign rhetoric.
The event was one of countless nationwide, alongside the national Women’s March on Washington, D.C. The marchers met at St. Paul College at 10 a.m., filling the streets with protest signs and pink clothing. They then followed John Ireland Boulevard to the Capitol.
Though a Facebook event page for the march showed 15,000 expected participants before Saturday, that number was soon dwarfed when crowds reached the capitol and stretched to the St. Paul Cathedral. Saturday evening, the St. Paul Police Department estimated the crowd to be between 90,000 and 100,000.
Among the protesters were women of all ages, and men who joined to show support. University of Minnesota students, alumni and faculty were also part of the demonstration.
University biology first-year student Ella Halverson said she joined the protests with her family to support reproductive rights.
“We are making history and these are the issues we feel are important,” Halverson said.
Diane Jacobsen, a University alumna, said she protested for civil rights in the 1960s and the same motivations brought her to the march Saturday. “Nothing has changed.”
The march held a more positive energy than the anger that seemed to permeate attitudes at Friday’s inauguration protests.
Throughout the march to the Capitol, crowds chanted, “say it loud, say it clear, everybody’s welcome here” along with “this is what democracy looks like.”
Before leaving St. Paul College, protesters performed music, yoga relaxation exercises and prayers. As many started toward the Capitol, those still near the college sang the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
Despite the relatively positive atmosphere, one male counter-protester was arrested for spraying chemical irritant into the crowd, according to a statement from the St. Paul Police Department.
Many prominent female leaders and politicians spoke from a stage in front of the Capitol to the mass of demonstrators just after 12 p.m.
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges was one of the first speakers to take the microphone Saturday.
“We woke up this morning for the first time to President Trump,” Hodges said.
She recalled Trump’s visit to Minnesota in 2016, when he gave a speech at a hangar of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport that “came after our Somali brothers and sisters.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar, DFL-Minneapolis, the first Somali-American lawmaker in the U.S., urged the crowd to stay unified. “You are the powerful ones.”
Omar said it was important to raise the number of female lawmakers until they were distributed equally with their male counterparts.
“Our liberation, our freedom is the freedom and liberation of all humans,” she said to the crowd.
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum said the crowd must view this march as only the beginning, stressing the dangers of complacency.
“There are politicians in Washington who are trying to take our rights away,” McCollum said.
Mayoral Candidate Nekima Levy-Pounds also joined in giving a speech.
“If women ran the world the way we should, the world would be a better place,” Levy-Pounds said.
Between speakers, musicians like K.Raydio and Ojibwe hip hop artist Tall Paul gave live concerts for protesters.