While Saturday was the second go-round for the Women’s March Kern County, the effort didn’t show any signs of slowing down.
Thousands once again took to the streets in downtown Bakersfield to advocate for women’s rights and equal treatment, along with other causes. Besides the march itself, the event also included speakers, entertainment as well as food and other vendors.
The march was one of several being held across the nation this weekend. It started at Mill Creek Park off 21st Street and headed west before turning south onto Q Street. Marchers then turned east onto 17th Street before going north along Mill Creek as they returned to the park.
“I think it’s amazing. It’s wonderful to see the diversity, to see how many people have come out here this year,” said Nikki Love, a returning participant. “To see it keep growing, especially in a conservative community like ours, is beautiful.”
The march means a lot to Love, as she said she’s had moments in her life where she felt powerless.
“I’ve been in abusive relationships. I’ve been beaten, raped, kidnapped, and I never had a voice,” she said. “Nobody believed me. Nobody listened to me.”
Now, she said she is trying to fight for women’s rights and the rights of all people.
“I love human rights. It is my everything,” she said. “Every living being on earth is equal.”
Tyler Vannatta said he felt it was important for men to fight for women’s rights as well.
“If it’s just women out here, that means no men are hearing what they have to say,” he said. “I felt like I should be out here speaking my mind trying to support all these women. No one should be left alone, and nobody should have to feel like they’re not allowed to speak about their own opinions and feelings.”
Carol Holley-Roquemore said she’s also happy that the march provides a platform where women can speak their minds.
“So many women have been suppressing their feelings,” she said. “This gives women an opportunity and encouragement to get out and see the world, be leaders in the world. I’m just so glad that it’s a focus on every level of what a woman does. It’s about the power of women.”
While this year’s march saw a lot of returning participants, there were still some newcomers, such as Cindy Lopez. Lopez said she wanted to come last year but was busy, as it was her last year of high school. She said she also wasn’t able to get transportation to the event.
This year, she wanted to make sure she came.
“It’s really great. There’s a really positive energy here,” she said. “It’s great to see how many women are here empowering each other.”
While she said she’s happy that women in Bakersfield have access to a march like this, she wishes they weren’t necessary.
“I’m happy there’s something like this, but I’m also kind of sad that there are still many issues that haven’t been resolved, to the point where we have to have a march for it,” she said.
Bruce Meier has had experiences with marches and other civics-related events over the years, having been a student at UC Berkeley during the 1960s, when there were several demonstrations held regarding civil rights, free speech and the Vietnam War.
“At that time, I believed in equality, and I have since then,” he said. “Equality is a fundamental right that should belong to all human beings.”
Meier said he strongly believes women should be able to make their own choices about their bodies and overall health.
“If men were denied those rights, there would be a revolution,” he said. “Men would not put up with the restrictions women are required to endure.”
While Meier said he’s seen a lot of change over the years regarding equality and rights — much of it positive — he believes there’s still work to do to support women and other groups.
“Civil rights have become more and more the rights of all people,” he said. “Law changes because culture changes, and culture changes when people dare to demonstrate. We’ve come a long way, but we’ve got a long way yet to go.”