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Saturday, December 15 , 2018, 3:34 pm | Fair 64º


Political Activism Takes Center Stage as Women’s March Returns to Santa Barbara

Amid a sea of pink ‘pussy hats’ and signs protesting Donald Trump, speakers call for more women to be elected to political office


Rallying on behalf of female political activism and social change, an estimated 2,000 demonstrators converged on downtown Santa Barbara on Saturday for the second annual Women’s March.

De la Guerra Plaza overflowed with women wearing pink knit “pussy hats” and their allies holding colorful signs while chanting slogans.

More than 1,400 community members marked that they “went” to the event on Facebook.

The Women’s March movement was organized last year to protest the election of President Donald Trump. Santa Barbara’s anniversary demonstration, and hundreds like it across the country Saturday, has since expanded to include calls to support women’s rights, human rights, civil liberties and social justice.

No marching took place in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara on Saturday, however, because local law enforcement resources were still assisting recovery efforts following last week’s deadly flooding and mudslides in Montecito.

Hours earlier, search and rescue teams located the body of Faviola Benitez Calderon, a 28-year-old mother of two, whose 10-year-old son also died in the deluge.

About 30 minutes into the rally, Santa Barbara police blocked off East De la Guerra Street to keep the event confined to the plaza in front of City Hall.

Using the theme “Power to the Polls,” this year’s Women’s March events were aimed at empowering and inspiring women to run for political office and to vote.

“We feel the pussy power and the political power,” Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo exclaimed. “There’s two women on the Santa Barbara City Council — two out of seven. I don’t like that math. You don’t have to be an expert at math to know that we need more women on the city council.”

The crowd cheered as she spoke.

“Woman my age, we got used to sexism and misogyny ... and I fought it to get to be mayor of Santa Barbara,” Murillo said.

Also addressing the rally was Goleta Union School District trustee Susan Epstein, who is running for the Second District seat on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and recently attended a training session of EMILY’s List, a political action committee working to elect pro-choice women political candidates.

“I’d love to see some of the faces here today run for office,” Epstein said, adding that “thousands” of women have signed up as candidates since the 2016 election. “There’s incredible strength when women come together.”

Solvang resident Sandra Perez, who was wearing a pink knit hat, said she decided to participate because she wants to make sure that women are treated equally with men.

“I’m here to join my comrades — we matter,” she said. “We need to stand together and continue to push for change. Equal pay, respect, acceptance of our diversity, embrace each other and celebrate each other.”

The Santa Barbara event was hosted by the student-run organization Future Leaders of America, which introduced the guest speakers.

The day featured dance and musical performances, as well as multiple speakers from local organizations and Chumash women offering a prayer.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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