In what organizers say was among the largest demonstrations ever in Colorado Springs, thousands marched Saturday from Acacia Park through downtown demanding equality, fairness and human rights a day after President Donald Trump's inauguration.
The protest drew an estimated 7,000 people, according to organizers, and was among hundreds in a worldwide series of marches for women's rights in response to Trump's election. More than 100,000 people, including many from the Springs, filled Denver's Civic Center. In the nation's capital, where Trump had taken the oath of office the day before, hundreds of thousands marched along the National Mall to the Ellipse near the Washington Monument in protest.
Worldwide, from the capitals of Europe to Antarctica, more than 2 million took part in marches vowing to resist Trump's policies, according to USA Today and the New York Times.
Marchers began gathering in Acacia Park about an hour before stepping off around 2:30 p.m. The protesters walking in groups filled Tejon Street from curb to curb for more than half an hour as they proceeded south to Colorado Avenue, where they turned east and then followed Nevada Avenue back to the park.
Carrying signs, they chanted rhythmic slogans: "No hate, no fear, everyone is welcome here," and "We need a leader, not a creepy tweeter."
"We feel strongly that leadership sets a tone, and the tone that seems to be set right now is a scary one, full of racism and bigotry and self-centeredness," said 56-year-old Susan Hashemi before marching alongside her 58-year-old husband Nizar, who she noted is Muslim. "We're scared."
A homemade sign she carried read, "My ancestors were undocumented immigrants. They came on the Mayflower." Nizar's poster read, "Trump is a terrorist" in Arabic.
The peaceful and orderly event attracted men and women of all ages. Marchers pushed children in strollers and led dogs on leashes.
"We want our children to know that despite what happens to our government, our values still matter and we still have a voice," said Blythe Hunt, a 39-year-old Colorado Springs mother who brought her 4-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter to the rally. "We want to teach them how to take a risk to stand up for what they believe in."
The march was organized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Colorado Springs SURJ, Showing Up for Racial Justice.
"Going forward, we will have to be more vigilant than ever in regards to civil and human rights," said Rosemary Lytle, president of the NAACP Colorado Montana Wyoming State Area Conference. "I'm marching for the things that I support and, in doing so, I make a statement about our democracy."
Before the march, local state lawmakers and longtime activists with such groups as the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission addressed the crowd.
"This is not a 'make America great again' rally. This is a 'keep America great' rally," Democratic state Sen. Michael Merrifield told demonstrators.
"We need to turn this passion into real action," said Nico Wilkinson, who represented Planned Parenthood. "It's really uncomfortable to think about, but our rights are at risk."
Many of the marchers voiced similar concerns.
"I'm here today because President Trump and the Republicans of Congress are threatening to repeal the Affordable Care Act," said Kurt Brunnemer, 46. "We have to stand up for health care for everyone."
Eric Barrows, 61, came from Guffey to support the women in his family, who he believes are in danger of losing their personal freedoms under the new president.
"This new regime that's moving in is actually going to be the worst ever for women's rights, and I'm absolutely against that," said Barrows.
In Denver, marchers shared some of the same motivations.
"We're marching for equality, and everyone deserves to be treated equally in this country," said Sarah Bunn, of Parker. "We need to show people we won't be silenced."
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and a collection of other leading Democratic politicians led the march, which began and ended at Civic Center, and delivered speeches about equality for all to the receptive crowd.
"I think it's always important to show up and be part of a demonstration that stands up for equal rights, to stand for women's rights and, really, stand for America," Hancock said.
At least 150 people from Colorado Springs attended the march in Denver. The Springs-based Citizens Project and El Paso County Democratic Party organized trips to Denver, bringing up several busloads of demonstrators.
A few local residents also made it to the Women's March on Washington.
Summer Westerbur, a board member for Colorado Springs Feminists, drove 24 hours to the nation's capital for the march.
"Visibility is a powerful thing," Westerbur said. "This is mostly symbolic. It's not going to change anything, but hopefully it will motivate people to not take our rights for granted."
Jené Jackson, another member of the group who traveled with Westerbur, also brought her 16-year-old daughter to experience the historic march.
"We've been silent for too long, and this is not the time for that," Jackson said. "This is the line in the sand, where I stand up and say, 'This is enough.'"
The Washington Post contributed to the reporting of this article.
Contact Rachel Riley: 636-0108