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Turnouts strong for women's marches across ND, Minn.

The crowd lingers in front of the Civic Center following a women’s march Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, in downtown Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service1 / 5
Women march Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, along Broadway following a rally at the Civic Center, Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service2 / 5
The 2018 Bemidji Women's March moves north on Lake Boulevard toward BSU on Saturday in Bemidji. Marchers began at the Sanford Center and ended at BSU's Beaux Arts Ballroom to listen to speakers and local musicians. Jillian Gandsey | Forum News Service3 / 5
An overflow crowd fills a meeting room Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, at the Ceivic Center, Fargo, prior to the FM Women’s March. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service4 / 5
Retired marine Dave Horvath waves a flag at the end of a women’s march Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, in downtown Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service5 / 5

FARGO -- A crowd that appeared to number at least 700 people took part in a rally and march in Fargo Saturday afternoon, Jan. 20, as part of women’s march organized by a group called Indivisible FM.

In other cities across North Dakota and Minnesota, crowds were also large with speakers giving strong messages.

In Fargo, the rally took place in the lower level of the Fargo Civic Center, where space limited the audience to about 600. However, hundreds more waited outside the Civic to join in the march that followed the rally.

The crowds waved signs like, “Girls Just Want To Have Fundamental Rights,” and chanted slogans like, “refugees are welcome here.”  During the rally, which focused on sparking civic involvement, Moorhead City Council member Sara Watson Curry looked out over the crowd and declared, “I see candidates.”

Sharing her own story of how she decided to run for office, Watson Curry said she at first looked around for other people she could encourage to run before eventually concluding, “why not me?” Then she added, “So why not you?”

In Grand Forks, the importance of every single vote -- coupled with a call to action -- was a common theme running through speakers’ remarks at the first “Raise Your Vote: The Women’s March Goes On” on Saturday at the Empire Arts Center.  

More than 200 people gathered for the event, hosted by the local Equal Rights for All group.

“With a panel of “diverse representatives of the voting community, I think the exciting part (of this event) is to highlight the importance of the right to vote in our country,” said Kathy Fick, ERA member.      

In addition to short talks by eight speakers, information on voting was available “to inform people and to make sure they’re equipped and prepared to vote,” Fick said.

Maria Berlin, chair of the first Hispanic Caucus in North Dakota, spoke of the Hispanic experience in the United States and the love many of these people have for this country.

For some who came as children and are living here under the provisions of the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, “their status is being taken away; they’re going to be deported,” she said.

The political landscape is changing in North Dakota where the fastest-growing minority group is Hispanic, she said.

“For the first time in North Dakota’s history, we have a Hispanic candidate,” she said, introducing Aurora Ortega, who was in the audience. Ortega plans to run this fall for the right to represent Fargo’s District 41 in the North Dakota House.

Across the border in Minnesota,  the crowd in Bemidji also measured in the hundreds and surprised organizers.

Not only was this year’s march about making the community more equal, it was also about inspiring new leaders for tomorrow, said organizers..

“Our main goal is to get people to vote and to get new people to run for office,” said Pam Lemm, event organizer. “That’s the goal of the Women’s March today here and around the world.”

Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht, who spoke at BSU after the 2.5 mile trek from the Sanford Center, echoed those comments.

“We know that we are marching to come together, share our stories, show solidarity for one another and imagine what we can do and what we will do to be leaders in our community. My wish is to increase the number of elected female leaders,” Albrecht said. “To get more women elected, we need to get more people like you involved.”

In downtown Duluth, on a slightly chilly morning hundreds of women and men of all ages marched down First Street participating in the second annual march on Saturday morning.

Susan Jordahl-Bubacz, the legislative chair of the Minnesota Business and Professional Women, wasn’t able to make last year’s march because of her mother’s death. She was excited to attend this year.

“I wouldn’t be anywhere else,” she said.  Jordahl-Bubacz said the best part of the march for her is everyone coming together to fight for what’s right.

“We need to come together; that’s what’s missing in America right now,” she said. “Out of all the legislation out there right now, none of the things that need to be happening are happening. So we need to come together and do what women do best, and that’s organize and create change.”

Mayor Emily Larson told the large crowd at City Hall she believes that is what’s happening: change.

“Last year, we showed as a community that we care about the voice of people in Duluth,” she said, “that we as a community stand united to ensure there are opportunities for women and girls, and I’ve seen our activism and our voice be effective time and time again.”

But Larson said their work is not done.

“People are like tea bags, and they don’t know how strong they are until you put them in hot water,” she said. “So here is what I say to our leaders across the state and to our president in the White House: Bring on the boil!”

Another speaker at the rally spoke about her own times of facing adversity. Terresa Hardaway said she moved to Duluth to escape her ex-husband who was a manipulator, liar, and physical and emotional abuser for five and half years.

“It was a pivotal experience in my life because I found out just how much of a badass I really am,” she said. Hardaway said while her story had much to do with power dynamics and sexism, it was really rooted in white supremacy.

“My ex’s actions were a direct result of him being socialized in an environment that values white supremacy,” she said. “This plague is deeply embedded and affects all of our communities with its domination and control, its elimination of opportunities and its white-washed collective memory.”

Hardaway’s powerful story was met with loud cheers and support from the crowd, and she refused to be “silenced or censored.”

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