Women’s March reaches Iowa City

A Women’s March on the Pedestrian Mall advocates for equal representation in office and high voter turnout in the fall.

Protesters+gather+during+the+Women%27s+March+on+January+20%2C+2018.+Protesters+gathered+at+the+Ped+Mall+listen+to+speakers+and+march+for+female+empowerment.+%28Katina+Zentz%2FThe+Daily+Iowan%29
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Women’s March reaches Iowa City

Protesters gather during the Women's March on January 20, 2018. Protesters gathered at the Ped Mall listen to speakers and march for female empowerment. (Katina Zentz/The Daily Iowan)

Protesters gather during the Women's March on January 20, 2018. Protesters gathered at the Ped Mall listen to speakers and march for female empowerment. (Katina Zentz/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Katin

Protesters gather during the Women's March on January 20, 2018. Protesters gathered at the Ped Mall listen to speakers and march for female empowerment. (Katina Zentz/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Katin

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Katin

Protesters gather during the Women's March on January 20, 2018. Protesters gathered at the Ped Mall listen to speakers and march for female empowerment. (Katina Zentz/The Daily Iowan)

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More than 900 women and men participated in a Women’s March Jan. 20 on the Pedestrian Mall, advocating for equal representation in local and national politics.

Volunteer Julie Eisele, who helped organize the event, also aided in organizing one of the many nationwide marches in January 2017 in Des Moines. She said this year’s event was planned by a core group of 20 women who joined together nicely.

Eisele had heard people would attend from eastern Iowa, she said, and she and her team were excited to see so much interest in the march.

“We have very inadequate representation of women in this country, and I hope that we can gain momentum from events like this,” Eisele said.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 22.7 percent of the state legislators in Iowa were women in 2016. Of the 150 seats, women held merely 34.

At the march, Iowa City City Councilor Mazahir Salih spoke about not only being an immigrant but being the first Sudanese-American woman in the U.S. to hold public office.

“If they will not give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair,” Salih said. “I will not be the last American woman of another nation to bring a folding chair up to the table.”

March participant Zach Wahls, a Democrat running for the Iowa Senate 37th District (currently represented by Sen. Robert Dvorsky), said he liked Salih’s speech and noted that voters need to get organized before the Iowa primary.

RELATED: UISG raves for student voter registration

Wahls was raised by two women and has advocated for his mothers’ rights.

“We’ve got primaries in June and elections in November, so there’s a whole lot of work to do,” Wahls said. “You know this is Iowa, we reap what we sow, and we got to get to work.”

The march drew a diverse crowd of people of all genders and ages. There were millennials holding signs in protest of sexual harassment, along with mothers and grandmothers who came with small children.

Barbara Green and Gean Perkins of Cedar Rapids came to protest against President Donald Trump and his policies, particularly surrounding immigration and women’s rights, and they said they have advocated for feminist issues for more than 50 years.

“If all the people who showed up for the Women’s March last year had voted, we would not be having these problems,” Green said. “So voting is paramount. We are very passionate about the midterm elections.”

According to the Iowa Secretary of State Office, in 2017, there were 258,527 registered male and female voters between the ages of 18-24. Of that number, 142,252 voted in the general election.

RELATED: Voter turnout drops

Perkins, who graduated from University of Northern Iowa in 1972, said society at the time told women to not make waves about activist issues.

“We just put our heads down and went to work, got a job,” Perkins said. “We were harassed and just said, ‘Avoid him.’ If you knew a professor was grabby, we just wouldn’t take his class.”

Green and Perkins said they are impressed by the participation of the millennial women, and they are proud to see they are saying “no more” to unfair treatment. They said they are here to support them as well.

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