DETROIT—Thousands descended on Detroit last weekend to continue the movement sparked by January’s Women’s March, where millions across the United States took to the streets to call for justice amid looming threats from the Trump administration.
“They told us that we would only get together to march on one day, and look at all of you who showed up here this morning,” Tamika Mallory, one of the Women’s March on Washington’s four chairs, told the Women’s Convention during Friday morning’s opening session. Thousands of people—one third of which were there at least in part on scholarships from the conference—attended the convention’s workshops and sessions.
And what stood out among the workshops, speakers, and trainings was a clear call for attendees to run for office, to support candidates running for office who are aligned with the March, and to take up advocacy for policies to ensure fair and equitable elections.
Many have already heeded the call since Trump won the presidential election. More than 20,000 women have contacted EMILY’s List, an organization that recruits, trains, and supports pro-choice women in running for office, since November with interested in running for office, the organization announced on Saturday. Another 8,000 have told the organization they are interested in helping.
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“This is unprecedented. Women continue stepping up and demanding to be at the decision-making table,” said Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, in a statement. “This is a surge of grassroots energy unlike anything we’ve ever seen. We’ve spent more than 30 years preparing for this kind of moment, and we’re ready to channel this energy into wins for women up and down the ballot, not just in 2018 but for the years and generations to come.”
Convention attendees joined EMILY’s List on Saturday for one of the organization’s national recruitment and training workshops, “Run to Win.” Those in the room included convention goers interested in running for office from as close as Detroit and as far as Hawaii, Alaska, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
But running and supporting those running for office was just one component of the election strategy that emerged over the course of the convention. Panelists and plenary discussions highlighted the role partisan gerrymandering and voter suppression have played in helping Republicans win seats from state legislatures all the way to the White House.
“This was our first election without full Voting Rights Act protection and look what we got,” said Donnelle R. White, executive director of Detroit’s chapter of the NAACP, during Sunday’s closing plenary discussion . “Voter suppression … is real.”
During the convention’s closing session, the March’s leaders suggested harnessing the power and skills of those who had attended the January event in order to reach voters. “We were able to mobilize 5 million across the world on January 21, so why can’t we mobilize that many to the polls,” said Women’s March Co-President Bob Bland. Pointing to state organizers across the country who organized trips to the march in D.C., Bland asked, “Can we mobilize those buses to polling stations?”
“The political work is just part of this,” she said. “It would be a missed opportunity for us in 2018 to focus only on the political work. And that is why Women’s March is working both on the education, and organizing, and local trainings, as well as making sure as many women as possible run for office.
“You are the ones that we are waiting for,” Mallory told the crowd of attendees as the weekend’s events concluded.