Two days, two marches and very different hopes under a Trump presidency

Demonstrators raise their hands in the air.
Demonstrators raise their hands during the Women's March in St. Paul on Saturday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

They came to the Capitol by car, by bus, by train and on foot on Saturday. St. Paul police say close to 100,000 people stood in the afternoon drizzle chanting, and listening to speaker after speaker denounce the new president.

Among the marchers was Kathy Kampa of St. Cloud. She came along with her daughter and niece, and says Trump's election shows the equal rights battles of the 1960s aren't over.

"I feel like we're going backwards," said Kampa. "There's oppression all over the world, and I think men in certain kinds of power feel like oppression is what they want. And I don't understand that. So I don't want to sit at home doing nothing. I want to feel like this is something we can do."

The demonstrators at the women's march in St. Paul joined with others in cities and towns across Minnesota — in places like Mankato, Bemidji, Grand Marais and Morris. And they joined millions of other demonstrators around the world. They demanded protection for immigrants, the right to legal abortion and equal pay for women.

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Demonstrator Mohamed Yakub of Minneapolis said they're issues that affect the whole of society.

"It may be a women's march, but women's rights are human rights, everyone's rights," said Yakub. "We're all in this together. I don't see them as women's rights. They're rights for everyone."

A day later, the state Capitol grounds were host to another protest, this one to mark the 44th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. Several thousand people gathered for the annual anti-abortion demonstration.

March for Life on Jan. 22, 2017 in St. Paul, Minn.
Demonstrators at the March for Life on Sunday in St. Paul.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

Kelly Jasper of Edina said she has always opposed abortion, but until Sunday afternoon, she'd never taken part in a march. She said the anti-Trump protests the day before inspired her to get out and express her own views.

"Seeing what I saw yesterday made me think I really need to stand up and do something," said Jasper. "I think what I think, and I believe what I believe, but I really haven't taken action. So it's time to stand up and do that."

Jasper was among the 42 percent of American women who supported Trump in November's election. And like many at the anti-abortion rally, Jasper said she's hopeful the new president will appoint Supreme Court justices who'll reverse the Roe v. Wade decision.

But for the people who flooded the women's march on Saturday — they say they're buoyed by millions of like-minded people — and are vowing to fight on. But it's still too early to tell whether the sound and fury of Saturday signifies a grass-roots movement like the tea party — one that fielded Congressional candidates and fundamentally reshaped politics — or just a one-time venting of steam.

Rhoda Gilman, 89, a Green Party activist and historian of Minnesota protest movements, said she's optimistic the anti-Trump effort will have staying power.

Gilman said Saturday's march follows a long tradition of Minnesota women speaking out against the Vietnam War, for voting rights, and the abolition of slavery. She says Trump's comments about women are impossible to ignore.

"I think Donald Trump did a lot to wake up the younger generation of women who have known relatively little discrimination, or at least not much blatant discrimination in their lifetime, less than their mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers did," said Gilman.

Gilman predicts the movement will continue until its backers feel they've made a difference. She says you'll know it's successful when the streets are quiet.