Florence shows solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington

Community participates in Florence and Rome demonstrations

Editorial Staff
January 22, 2017 - 19:44

Members of Florence's international community joined the millions of people around the world standing in solidarity with the Women's March on Washington by participating in peaceful demonstrations in Florence and in Rome on January 21.

The Washington D.C. march, which these affiliate events supported, began as a grassroots initiative immediately following the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. As reported by The Washington Post, retiree Teresa Shook created a Facebook event encouraging women to march on the nation's capital the day after Trump's inauguration as a way to demonstrate a commitment to feminist ideals, climate justice and intersectional identity politics (view the official platform here). Overnight, 10,000 people unofficially registered for the event, which grew further as it gained support from high-profile partners and organizations. D.C. officials estimated a turnout of 500,000 in the final days leading up to the march. Across the globe, same-day sister marches were scheduled, with a total of 673 events registered across all seven continents, and an estimated 4,797,500 marchers.

In Florence, solidarity events were twofold and were organized primarily for those who could not travel to Rome or Milan for previously scheduled, larger-scale marches. Local resident Robin Killoran planned a noon gathering in front of the post office in piazza della Repubblica, independently of a self-styled counter-inaugural vigil held by the Florence chapter of U.S. Citizens Against War outside the U.S. consulate.

"The march started almost accidentally," said Killoran, "as I went to the Women's March website looking for {initiatives} in Florence and found nothing listed. Then there was this button: "host an event". It was the pebble that started the avalanche. But it seems that there were a lot of people in Florence just waiting for the opportunity to act."

Though the post office gathering and counter-inaugural vigil were mutually supportive, they were never officially combined. Yet by the afternoon, the two events had organically merged: Patti DeRosa, local musician, speaker and racial justice educator and activist, explained that the post office group marched around the Duomo-Signoria area before moving down toward the lungarno and toward the consulate. An estimated 200 people were present at the peak of the demonstration, and DeRosa described the group as "diverse in age, gender, race, ethnicity and sexual identity, and including not only Americans and Italians but many others from around the world."

Demonstrators outside the U.S. consulate in Florence | Ph. Alice Fischetti

Both Killoran and DeRosa highlighted the presence of many first-time activists. These were "folks who felt that they had to come and speak out for the first time...boldly, courageously and lovingly saying no to sexism, no to racism, no to homophobia, no to Islamophobia and no to climate change deniers," DeRosa said.

President of U.S. Citizens Against War John Gilbert noted "a large number of older women with longtime residence in Florence or Italy," many of whom spoke out about their experiences and resolve going forward. A photograph of the group outside the consulate was featured in an image roundup put together by The New York Times.

A similarly diverse group from Florence made its way southward for the Women's March Rome, a standing demonstration in piazza della Rotonda, in front of the Pantheon. Speakers, musicians and sign holders stood facing the crowd from the 1575 fountain, looking toward the former Roman temple. 

A portion of the Florence-based participants in the Women's March Rome, 
representing citizens
of the United States, Canada, Australia, Croatia and Finland

The Rome march, which ran from 11am to 2pm, saw about 1,000 participants over the course of the morning and early afternoon, with the sounds of "This Little Light of Mine," "We Shall Overcome" and "Amazing Grace" ringing out, among other chants, hymns and protest anthems. Organizers also read a message from Senator Chris van Hollen (D-Maryland), directed at Americans abroad and affirming that "allies at home will continue to advocate for a more peaceful and connected world ... While we will always voice America’s priorities, we know that we are stronger as part of a community of nations."

Canadian student in Florence Emily Jenkins, 23, who was part of the Rome demonstration, noted how diverse the participants were, as well as her gratitude for having heard a wide range of perspectives on the way to the event and in the conversations it inspired after the fact. "As a group of us from Florence – both women and men – travelled to Rome, we were able to thoughtfully exchange our opinions and ideas about inclusiveness and what we can do to realize those goals. If we want to ensure equal rights in the future, we must never stop listening to other perspectives and experiences."

Demonstrators in Rome. | Ph. Mary Gray

Debate has already begun on whether the global marches will ultimately launch a new movement or remain a cathartic moment. But the grassroots organizers of yesterday's events in Florence, as well as many community members who traveled to Rome, are promising plenty of opportunities to maintain Saturday's momentum locally. "This demonstration was important for Florence in the same way it was important for Erbil, Prague, Sydney, Ajijic and Nairobi, as well as the other locations outside the U.S. People who feel their freedoms are under attack need to band together to send a message that any negative changes will be vigorously resisted," Killoran concluded.

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