Thousands gather in Bend—and millions worldwide—for Women's Marches
It's not unusual for upwards of 8,000 people to gather at the Les Schwab Amphitheater for a music show in the summertime—but when thousands gather in the downtown area in the middle of winter, it's a different thing indeed.
On Saturday, event organizers estimate that between 4,000 and 5,000 people gathered in Bend's Drake Park for the Women's March, just one of many events that took place around the globe the day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump. While Bend Police don't have a more exact figure, Lt. Clint Burleigh estimates a turnout of between 3,000 and 4,000 attendees.
"It's by far the biggest march we've ever had in Bend," said Melissa Adams, a licensed clinical social worker and the lead organizer of the event.
"I think the cross-generational nature of the event was very noteworthy. We had everything there from infants under one year old, toddlers, school age, high schoolers through octogenarians," said Adams. She also noted that the march's inclusive nature—inviting members of various communities to participate and share their stories—was "healing" for many people.
"As a social worker and someone who's worked with many, many marginalized groups, it was really really important to me to be intersectional and not be splintered groups," Adams said.
Carina Miller, a tribal councilwoman from the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs spoke to the crowd just after the march.
"I was really impressed with the organizers reaching out to the tribe. Bend and Central Oregon in general hasn't really been a place with a lot of support for indigenous people, so I thought that was a really good step in wanting to bring that intersectionality into the feminist movement of Central Oregon," Miller said.
"I feel like I probably had a very different experience than a lot of native women on Saturday because there was a lot of support, and it's not usually the case," Miller reflected. "To me it was super powerful to be valued and to be recognized and understood," she said.
"When people are educated on women's issues or people of color issues, the oppression stops," Miller said.
What stood out for Lt. Burleigh was the peaceful nature of the demonstrations, and "our ability to work with the peacekeepers," Burleigh said. There were "a limited amount of issues. Almost none," Burleigh added, while also noting that the unpermitted closure of Minnesota and Wall Streets downtown did raise the ire of some drivers.
Adams says the event—organized after Election Day—brought up one issue. At present, City of Bend Special Event Permitting processes require applications to be submitted "no less than 90 days prior to the event in order to allow enough time for review by all City departments, especially if the event requires a lane/road closure," according to the City's website. Because of that rule, the Bend Women's March did not receive the permit that would have formally closed downtown streets.
In this case, Adams says, "the election didn't allow us 90 days." Adams told the Source Weekly she'd be working to change that rule.