They went to make a stand on a woman’s right to choose and to offer commentary on the wage gap.
They spoke about the struggles and triumphs of aboriginal Canadians as well as the treatment of migrant workers.
Some held placards with pithy political slogans while others shared personal perspectives on stage during the open mic.
Many just took it all in with a jaunty pink pussyhat atop their heads —the go-to accoutrement for the occasion.
There were dozens of reasons and ways for men, women and children to gather at the Sails in Kelowna Saturday and engage in peaceful protest.
The unifying force was the desire to stand in solidarity with those participating in the Women’s March on Washington.
More than 3,500 kilometres away from the US capital, where hundreds of thousands had converged, Okanaganites showed up in force.
Darin Howard has been the organizing force behind marches against Monsanto and police brutality. He helped in the planning for the Okanagan leg of the Women’s March on Washington, and when he took the stage Saturday he said he’d never seen a crowd so big in 20 years of local political engagement.
The sheer volume of people surprised organizer Alison Moore, too.
“We thought 25, then 50 and then every day we were looking at Facebook, which is the way people were RSVP-ing,” she said.
In the last 24 hours, she thought it looked like 300 would join the effort, but she was told “don’t be disappointed if they don’t show up.”
“Now we have over 500,” she said. “It’s just a statement — we are all ready to speak we’re all ready to share our call to action and join others. We’ve been waiting for this moment.”
Moore, a US expat who was devastated by the results of the last presidential election, had never organized a rally before Saturday’s event, although she’s no stranger to politics.
“My daughter is in Washington DC today following in her grandmother’s footsteps,” she said. “My mother used to put us in her old Mercury station wagon and haul us down to Washington DC from Pennsylvania. I was at the civil rights marches.”
She was also at the historic moratorium to end the Vientam war march.
That and more were on her mind as the event carried on this weekend.
“I’m thinking about my daughter and all those incredible people marching together en masse to tell the new leadership we are one voice,” said Moore.
“I’m so proud to be joining all these women around the world and people around the world of all ages.”
The interconnectedness and responsibility to one another is something that Westbank First Nation Chief Roxanne Lindley touched on, as well, before opening the rally in song.
Bringing several young women on stage, she explained that some of the vitriol in the run up to the US election seeped into local schools.
“There were kids in the hallway doing the white power thing, and our children suffered. These young ones suffered,” she said.
“That’s where we come in … all of us come in … to create an awareness that we are all equal. We all have value. We’re all important and all of our voices must be heard.”