DENVER – One Billion Rising held two separate marches in Denver on Saturday. The first march rallied for indigenous women and women affected by domestic violence and the second march rallied for constitutional rights.
Participants of the Defend Our Constitution March marched from Civic Center Park to the First Unitarian Society of Denver to listen to Jeanette Vizguerra, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who has lived in the United States for 20 years.
After more than five stays of deportation she decided not to meet with immigration authorities this past Wednesday due to fear of being separated from her three children who are all under 12 years old. She went into sanctuary at the First Unitarian Society of Denver on Wednesday, Feb. 15.
Vizguerra spoke through her translator, Kerry Gutierrez, to a crowd of over 200 people about her devotion to the community and fear of where it is headed under the Trump Administration.
“I spent many years here with my community and I don’t know how long I’m going to be here for,” Vizguerra said.
Vizguerra said she would continue to rally for her community for as long as she is in the Colorado.
“(It) doesn’t matter if I’m going to be here for months, weeks, years,” Vizguerra said. “I will be here to fight for my community and make sure that these four years are worth something.”
Audience members placed money into a donations box, which Vizguerra said was for her personal legal expenses and to start a fund for other undocumented immigrants to pay for lawyers.
Vizguerra also explained to the crowd what caused her to be considered undocumented.
“I was labeled a criminal simply because I used the wrong number which gave me my identity and, all because of that, I’ve carried the stereotype of a criminal when people who were labeled criminals ran off,” she said.
She continued, “We need to change this because, just like everyone else, I am part of this community.”
Earlier in the day One Billion Rising marched to Civic Center Park to rally against violence towards women.
One speaker, a music teacher named Terrie Benton, led the One Billion Rising participants in a song. The ralliers sung “Quiet” by MILCK, a song that was previously sung at the Women’s Marches in January nationwide.
One Billion Rising participated in several flash mobs and group dances, including a drum circle, two dance breaks in between guest speakers and one speaker read poetry over an instrumental track of Eminem’s “Not Afraid.” Ralliers were encouraged to dance anytime during the presentations.
“I am basically just here to get the good vibes and have fun,” said Lauren Gorman, a history and education major at CSU. “I’ve really liked it, there are a lot of positive messages and (it’s) just a really happy place.”
Jim Norland, Leyba’s husband, urged male participants to support their female partners during One Billion Rising.
“I’m here to stand with my wife, my daughter, my stepdaughters,” Norland said. “I’m here to stand with all my sisters … We as men have to stand, have to work with our brothers to change this culture.”
Male participants were encouraged by Norland to form a wall around the women in the Pavilion as a metaphorical show of solidarity while he led them in a “male prayer.”
One Billion Rising encouraged women of all races and identities to stand up and speak, and offered their support unconditionally and asked for others to do the same.
Protesters of both marches held a variety of signs, ranging from “Impeach Trump” to “No Humans Are Illegal” and wore pink hats seen at the Women’s March and shirts with breasts printed on them.
As the protesters passed through Denver, passing cars honked at the participants and spectators who met them with a variety of reactions. Some civilians joined in the cheering as they passed by, while others were less enthusiastic.
Beth Leyba, an organizer for the One Billion Rising march, said the organization received donations in order to pay for $1,000 in permits and sign language interpreters. The Defend Our Constitution claimed that they did not file for permits, stating that they should not have to tell the government that they are going to protest the government.
Though they did not file for permits the Defend Our Constitution March said they remained cooperative and kind to local law enforcement.
The Defend Our Constitution March was spearheaded by Queen Phoenix, a queer activist. Phoenix led the Defend Our Constitution march downtown after a short rally and spoke about the current president and how people’s lives are affected by him.
Phoenix encouraged ralliers to attend upcoming political marches, including a “Not My President’s Day” march on Monday and many more which can be found on their Facebook page here.
At the end of her speech Vizguerra directed the attention of her audience to the American flag that was next to her on the balcony of the church.
“This is the flag of the country I adopted,” she said. “The country (where) my kids are from, the (country) that I look to for safety and that would give me and my children a better life.”
Collegian reporters Tony Villalobos May, Stuart Smith and Haley Candelario can be reached online at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @TheTonyVM, @NotStuartSmith and @H_Candelario98.