South Carolinians join hundreds of thousands in DC for massive women’s rights protest


Tucked among the hundreds of thousands packed into the Washington National Mall on Saturday morning, or the tens of thousands cramming streets to the mall in all directions, or the hundreds stuck in lines to check out of the subway system to make a statement for women’s rights, were an estimated 2,000 from South Carolina.

They joined the Women’s March on Washington, planned as a protest against the perceived misogyny of President Donald Trump but having expanded to include a host of causes.

Among a crowd that the Washington-area subway system estimated included about 300,000 subway riders, most were calling for women’s rights and insisting on equal pay for equal work, that abortion remain legal and an end to sexual harassment. But there many other banners calling for people to “Stand with immigrants,” “Stand against racism” and “Stay Nasty,” as well as quite a few suggesting what Trump should do with his “tiny hands.”

Heather Brandt of Columbia, South Carolina, was in the crowd, and said she had been overwhelmed by the spirit, and the pink hats, from the moment she’d caught a suburban subway train early Saturday and started heading into the protest.

Brandt spent more than an hour on the subway getting from the outskirts of the nation’s capital to the center, where the event and eventually the march were taking place. She said it had been a crowded train ride but an exciting one. Every stop brought more and more committed women onto the train.

Brandt said there was an urgency to the event in the wake of Trump’s inaugural address, which reinforced the fears of many who’d disagreed with him as a candidate.

“As someone who did not want the new president to be president, I want him to do well,” she said. “If he fails, we all fail. But that doesn’t mean I won’t use my voice.”

Brandt, an associate professor of public health at the University of South Carolina, said that speech had convinced her she’d been right to come to Washington for the march.

“It’s more and more important now to stand on the right side of history,” she said. “We want to make sure that we retain the advances we’ve made, in pay equity, in reproductive rights.”

One stance she believes strongly in: She said her public health research had shown that, overwhelmingly, most people in South Carolina and around the country wanted what Obamacare delivered. People don’t want to go back to the time when insurance companies could deny service for pre-existing conditions. They don’t want to go back to a time when insurance companies could cap lifetime benefits, she said.

“It was one of the most important pieces of legislation of our time,” she said. “It isn’t perfect, but it wasn’t mean to be perfect. It was meant to give people some control over their health care.”

Other marchers from the Carolinas traveled to Washington as well. Mark Hughes and Gail Jodon, a couple from Charlotte, North Carolina, might have summed up the mood well.

“Why are we here?” Hughes said. “We’re here to protest, um, everything. It’s insane what’s going on, the climate, equal rights. You name it.”

Jodon added: “Trump’s vision is very dark, very gloomy. I’m glad we’re here. It was time to take a stand.”

Matthew Schofield: 202-383-6066, @mattschodcnews