There will be no pink hats, pro-choice posters or megaphone-powered speeches in the streets of Columbus, Ohio, during the Women’s March Saturday.
This is the first year in the march’s four-year history that Columbus will not join the global network of marches that began in 2017 after President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Rhiannon Childs, former executive director of the Ohio Women’s March, said she didn’t expect the march to turn into an annual event.
“[The Women’s March] is the largest protest in U.S. history, so it was a historical moment for all of us. In that moment, we never imagined it would literally ignite a movement,” Childs said.
While there are no official numbers on attendance at the 2017 marches, estimates from political scientists from the universities of Connecticut and Denver place national attendance between 3.3 million and 4.6 million, with no arrests made at any location. According to previous Lantern reporting, more than 700 activists attended the 2019 Ohio Women’s March in Columbus.
Despite its endurance as a global movement, Childs said organizing the march demanded a high level of stamina that wasn’t sustainable.
“Out of the original organizers from the march in 2017, I am literally the only one still organizing,” Childs said. “I don’t think people understand how much work it is.”
According to the Women’s March website, there are nine marches happening in Ohio Saturday, with the closest to Columbus being in Westerville.
Kaleab Mammo-Jegol, a second-year in comparative studies and sociology, was a national youth organizer for the Women’s March and spoke at the Columbus march in 2019. As an immigrant from Ethiopia, Mammo-Jegol said it was important for him to represent his community.
“I think that any time that marginalized communities are offered spaces to share their community’s needs — speaking there was valuable,” he said. “We live in an inherently intersectional world, and so not only being an immigrant, but being a black immigrant and a queer immigrant and being able to do that in a public space is, it was amazing.”
Childs hit the ground running in 2017, overseeing all sister marches in Ohio while also organizing the one in Columbus.
“The election at that time, it honestly didn’t surprise me — I just had this feeling. At that point, I honestly was just angry, I was outraged and I wanted to do something,” Childs said.
The upset of the 2016 election compelled a wave of organizers to act the same way it did Childs, and they were forced to act quickly.
Childs said they began right after the election, giving them a few months to plan, and the hardest challenge was consolidating the different issues organizers wanted to emphasize into a united stance against Trump’s election.
“It was a matter of different people from across the country expressing how that election was meaning to them,” Childs said. “The issues range from immigration rights to racial justice to gender equality.”
Childs stepped down as head of the Ohio Women’s March to start the Ohio Women’s Alliance, an organization designed to connect different female and femme organizers with one another so they can collaborate across the state.
Before leaving the Ohio Women’s March, Childs said she tried to find someone prepared to take her place, but was unable to.
“It has grown so big, and I think a lot of people were intimidated by it, by the gravity of it, and the expectation of people who have joined the movement,” she said.
As far as the Women’s March not happening in Columbus, Childs said she isn’t too pressed about it, and others shouldn’t be, either.
“Columbus is the capital of the state of Ohio,” she said. “We have marches every single week.”
While marches are a great tool to bring awareness to issues, Childs said participating in them is ultimately not enough to effect real change.
“I feel like that those who go out to march, that shouldn’t be their only act of civic engagement,” Childs said. “They should be ready every other day of the year to show up in their communities.”
The Westerville march will take place at noon Saturday at Westerville’s city hall.