President Donald Trump has often said that “nobody” respects women more than he does, but Moab residents like Suzette Weisheit and Denise Oblak might beg to differ.
The two women joined an estimated 250 to 300 people at the biggest of two rallies in Moab last weekend to voice their concerns about the new president and his policies, especially as they relate to women.
The Women’s March on Saturday, Jan. 21, was one of hundreds of similar events that took place across the country and around the world in the hours and days after Trump was sworn in as the nation’s 45th president.
Like their counterparts elsewhere, many local marchers wore hand-sewn pink “pussyhats” – a visual reference to Trump’s now-infamous Access Hollywood comments in 2005 that “stars” like himself can get away with grabbing women by their genitalia. The release of that recording outraged many who were already upset by Trump’s previously disparaging comments about women, immigrants, Muslims and even decorated military veterans like Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona.
“This is the most embarrassed I’ve been for our country in my adult life, that we put into power a man who is willing to condemn people he views as lesser than himself,” Weisheit said.
Oblak marched from Swanny City Park to Sun Court in part to stand up for women’s reproductive rights, and to protest Trump’s past comments about women.
“Just the way he’s talked about women has been pretty demeaning,” she said.
But the scope of the march ultimately went beyond the issue of women’s rights, and focused on the new administration’s stances on everything from climate change to race relations, education, jobs and the economy.
“It wasn’t a single issue,” Weisheit said.
Oblak said she thinks that everyone who attended the march came for their own personal reasons. But there was at least one unifying thing that brought them together: opposition to the new president.
“Certainly, Donald Trump had a lot to do with it,” she said.
To this day, she believes that Trump and his surrogates continue to get away with telling falsehoods, or in her words, outright “lies.”
“It boggles the mind where our democracy has gone, and I’m very concerned for it,” she said. “I hope that people on both sides of the aisle are equally concerned.”
Weisheit said the turnout of men, women and children of all ages and races reflected one of the country’s greatest attributes: its diversity.
“That diversity is what we celebrate in America,” she said.
While crowd estimates varied widely, from 70 people to “500 easy,” Weisheit placed the numbers somewhere around 250 to 300 people, based on her review of video footage she shot that day.
“It was the biggest turnout in this town that I have ever seen,” Weisheit said. “And I’ve been to a lot of movements and protests.”
Moab City Police Sgt. Bret Edge said that organizers of both events worked with Moab City Police Sgt. Tom Nixon on traffic control measures to ensure that everyone made it safely across Main Street.
“Everything went really smoothly,” he said.
“They were a great group to work with,” Edge added. “They were very respectful and cooperative.”
Critics see protesters as disgruntled partisans
Event organizers had anticipated that the new president’s supporters would be staging counter-demonstrations at both events. But with the exception of one woman who wore a couch cushion around her neck that said “Women 4 Trump,” they never showed up.
However, many of Trump’s supporters weighed in on social media sites like the Moab Sun News’ Facebook page, criticizing the marchers for protesting a president who had just barely taken office.
“Get over it Moab Obama lovers,” Jennie Bogart wrote. “Trump doesn’t hate, just let him do his job and what you all need to do is get off the streets and go to work like the other ones in your community … it’s time to grow up and make America great again.”
Krystle Harrison said that opposition to Trump should have ended on Election Day 2016.
“The results of who is president ends at the voting booth,” she wrote. “Our president isn’t going to change as a result of this, everyone needs to accept that.”
Marshall Gillespie, meanwhile, suggested that people who speak out against the new president and his administration are a bunch of disgruntled partisans.
“Don’t get your way. Have a tantrum,” he wrote. “(Pathetic). No wonder kids are so screwed up these days.”
Oblak, however, said there’s more to her concerns about Trump, adding that she didn’t feel the same way when former Republican President George W. Bush was inaugurated in 2001.
“I didn’t vote for him, but I was not nearly as alarmed,” she said. “Donald Trump is taking things to a whole different level.”
Weisheit said that while she was concerned about the rise of extractive industries during the Bush administration, the 43rd president’s comments about other Americans never alarmed her.
“I never saw George Bush condemn our diverse populations,” she said. “That whole side of this is what’s driving (the marches).”
In contrast, she said, Trump and many of his supporters are verbally attacking citizens because they happen to have different religious beliefs, or come from different backgrounds.
“That hate speech is not like anything I have ever seen in any election,” she said.
Although she could have rattled off a long list of reasons why she attended the march, Weisheit said she ultimately wanted to stand up for freedom of speech and equal rights for everyone – not just a select group of people.
Oblak said she’s concerned that the new administration will do away with the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, as well as its move to reverse the former administration’s decision against the controversial Keystone Pipeline.
“I think he’s unraveling just about everything that (former President) Obama stood for, which is disheartening to me because I was a big supporter of (Obama’s),” she said. “I would say that my level of concern and anxiety is pretty high with this president.”
Oblak said she wouldn’t go as far as Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, who recently said he believes that Trump is an illegitimate president because of Russian interference in last year’s elections.
“But I certainly think he needs to listen to the people who didn’t vote for him,” she said.
Moab resident Claire Core said she marched because she felt “completely compelled” to be there.
“I wanted to bring my baby daughter there as a sign of hope for the future while also showing our support for a future that is healthy, vibrant, safe and beautiful,” she said.
The new administration, she said, is not hopeful for any of her fellow marchers.
“It’s up to us and our community to work together to support ourselves and our neighbors and this march was a way of showing each other that we are not alone and that anyone who feels scared right now is not alone,” Core said. “There was a whole parade of people who want a better future, a healthier environment, and a safe and thriving society.”
Smaller crowd joins Critical Mass
The earlier and smaller march began just hours after Trump took the oath of office on Friday, Jan. 20.
An estimated 50 to 60 people gathered at Swanny City Park for a Critical Mass “Bike Ride to Resist” and rode their bikes or walked through downtown Moab, chanting “not my president” at various points along the way.
As they marched across Main Street, drivers in their cars honked their horns in a show of support for the demonstrators.
Moab resident Barbara Jackson joined the Critical Mass event to demonstrate her support for the values that former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders championed on the campaign trail.
“The purpose of this march is to show our solidarity to the causes of socialism, Bernie Sanders and our opposition to the ideals of Donald Trump,” she said.
Canyon Country Rising Tide member Cali Bulmash said that participants need to become more visible, join more marches and make their voices heard – loudly.
“We are entering a new paradigm and are lucky to be living in rural Utah where there is a community that is fighting for human rights,” Bulmash said. “We are here, and we are not shutting up.”
Women’s March, Critical Mass rally follow inauguration
This is the most embarrassed I’ve been for our country in my adult life, that we put into power a man who is willing to condemn people he views as lesser than himself.