Marchers protested to defend their rights, and keep America inclusive

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Last updated: January 23, 2017 at 1:26 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 21, went down in history as one of the biggest collective marches around the world, where people advocated for women’s rights, minority rights and stood against President Donald Trump’s most controversial stances.

More than 2.9 million marches took place across the world, and about 500,000 marchers were in Washington D.C. and other states, including New York, Denver, Boston and Phoenix.

Atlanta’s streets were shook by at least 63,000 peaceful protesters, as estimated by the Atlanta Police Department. Despite the rain, protesters gathered at the National Civil and Human Rights Center in Downtown around 1 p.m. and after a series of speakers, including Congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis, who emphasized unity and inclusivity before kicking off the march.

In the Atlanta crowd, pink “pussyhats” reigned over women’s heads, as a response to the President’s lewd remarks released in a leaked tape a month back, which outraged citizens across the country.

Shelley Mays, an Atlanta resident, told The Signal she’s “very concerned with the status of the country, planned parenthood, LGBTQ rights and healthcare.”

Sana Ahmed, an Atlanta resident, said despite the freedoms Americans already have, there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

“I am a Muslim woman American. I have freedom to practice my faith, but there is still a lot of work to be done with the way in which minorities are treated,” she said.

Protesters walked by CNN Center, landing the march across the Georgia State Capitol, where thousands of people gathered for another series of speeches to conclude the day.

Former mayor Shirley Franklin took the stage saying that despite election results, no one should be discouraged.

“If John Lewis isn’t discouraged, by golly we can’t be discouraged,” she said.

“The Atlanta march for Social Justice is one of 600 marches taking place across this country and around the world,” said Georgia’s 4th Congressional District Rep. Hank Johnson.

“These marches are peaceful celebrations and demonstrations of solidarity and fairness, equity and social justice. This nation has endured a long, polarizing and divisive political campaign, perhaps the most polarizing in modern history.”

Making America great again wasn’t just a dog whistle summoning, anti-black, anti-Mexican, anti-Latino, anti-Muslim, anti-homophobic sentiments, it was also a dog-whistle to those sentiments that wanted to take us back to when a woman’s place was in the home,” he said. “We won’t go back to a time when women payed more for health insurance simply because they got pregnant and where pregnancy was a pre-existing condition. We can’t go back to a time when the only control a woman had over her body was in a back alley with a clothes hanger.”

A big theme before marchers dispersed was getting everyone involved in all upcoming elections to prevent a similar outcome as the one during the 2016 elections, in the future.

“Vote every election. In 2017, [vote in] local and county elections. In 2018, congressional elections. Vote every election,” said State President of the Georgia NAACP Dr. Francys Johnson.

“Because we have this racist electoral system, which we’ve gotta get rid of y’all, we ended up electing somebody who didn’t get the majority of the votes,” said Johnson.

A commitment which all the speakers urged protesters to continue to remember after last night’s protest.

Aisha Yaqoob, co-organizer of the march, led an oath to defend the Constitution, and remain an active citizen, reminding protesters of ways to get involved.

Take in the crowd, the people standing beside you, and remember, for whom, for what, and for why you took this pledge and came to march today. The next time you feel overwhelmed, remember the community that was here today,” she said. “These are the people that have your back. Sixty-three thousand people that have your back. You have taken your oath, and now you must live the oath.”

FRIDAY, Jan. 20

The day of the president’s inauguration also saw high activity in Atlanta, when a crowd of 300 people, led by the J20 Coalition, marched to the Atlanta City Hall and read off a list of demands for the city, in the Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s office.

The list of 18 demands included making Atlanta a sanctuary city, the center-cause of the Friday protest. Other demands called for the city to repeal all city policies that discriminate against minorities, close the city’s detention center, decriminalize marijuana and enforce policies against labor violations.

J20 Demands

  1. Atlanta repeal all city laws and policies that discriminate against minorities
  2. Atlanta not use resources to assist with deportation of immigrants and fight efforts to strip federal funding because of noncompliance with deportation
  3. Atlanta close city detention center
  4. Atlanta enforce policies against labor violations
  5. Atlanta oppose registry based on religion, race, or national origin
  6. Atlanta stop participating in the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange
  7. Atlanta cease and desist redevelopment projects that displace residents from their homes
  8. Atlanta appropriate $30 million in revenue from Turner Field sale toward community benefit programs for the neighborhoods surrounding Turner Field
  9. Atlanta pass an ordinance requiring a Community Benefits Agreement for all new land use projects
  10. Atlanta divest from programs that reinforce the school-to-prison pipeline and invest in programs that protect young people from racial profiling
  11. Atlanta law enforcement cease the use of police checkpoints and raids and focus on arresting sex workers
  12. Atlanta decriminalize marijuana
  13. Atlanta end use of money bail
  14. Atlanta make fines and fees issued by the municipal court based on income and end failure to appear warrants
  15. Atlanta repeal 77 city ordinances that provide for the basis of “broken window policing”
  16. Atlanta invest in social services such as affordable housing and equal access public education
  17. Atlanta institute a minimum wage of $15 per hour
  18. Atlanta invest in programs supporting the homeless and not stigmatize homeless people or deny them access to public streets

“As our nation continues to move forward on a more right-wing, corporatist, exclusive form of leadership, we seek to lift up the concerns of our communities and our neighbors,” Mary Hooks, a spokesperson for the coalition, said as she was delivering the demands to a representative of Mayor Reed.

Another representative of the coalition and a member of Project South Azadeh Shahshahani said that the demands were being made now in response to the attitude of racism, Islamophobia and white supremacy that they observed in the city.

“We hope to make the city a safer space so that we as people of color, as Muslims, as black people, as immigrants do not have to live our lives in fear,” Shahshahani said.

Michelle Tabrizi and Wesley Dunkirk contributed to this article.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated Saturday, Jan. 22, 2017.