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With Focus On The Polls, Women's March Organizers Stage Flagship Event In Las Vegas

Jan 21, 2018
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Thousands of people are attending a rally in Las Vegas today to wrap up a weekend of marches promoting women's rights. Today's march comes on the first anniversary of a huge demonstration in Washington the day after President Trump took office. The stated goal today is to transform words and emotions into votes and political action. NPR's Leila Fadel is at the rally, and she is with us now. Leila, thank you for joining us.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Thank you.

MARTIN: So tell us what you're seeing at the stadium there. What's the mood?

FADEL: Well, there are thousands of people attending - mostly people from Las Vegas - and the message is vote. And so you see voter registration booths set up all through the stadium between concession stands, every speaker coming out saying, you know, if you want to see a new leader, then be those leaders or at least get out there and vote. And the other real message is there is no one issue. Anybody who feels marginalized, then that is a community that we need to talk about that needs to be heard. Take a listen to Cecile Richards. She's the president of Planned Parenthood, and she's describing the kind of forging alliances between communities that she's just never seen before.

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CECILE RICHARDS: Our members, our supporters, our staff have not only stood for Planned Parenthood. They stand with DREAMers. They stand with Muslims. They stand with every attack that this administration has made on people.

MARTIN: Does this message about getting more women involved in politics in particular and getting them out to vote - does that seem to be sinking in or taking hold?

FADEL: Well, with the people I spoke to, yes. I think it is sinking in. This is a rally that comes after a year of one big political issue after the next - from the travel ban to Dreamers to the #MeToo movement to white supremacy in Charlottesville. And these are all issues that affect communities that feel disenfranchised, marginalized. And so, today, in this rally and the marches that we saw over the weekend, we see people who are feeling affected by these policies or proposed policies showing up.

So I met a woman named Brianna Jones (ph) who you'll hear from in a minute. She's a young African-American - half-African-American, half-Mexican millennial, who says the last year, it's been really difficult being black and Hispanic under this administration. And so she wants young people like herself to be involved politically.

BRIANNA JONES: But that's what I'm here for. So I want to get my friends involved. I mean, my friends are my same age, and I'm the only one out of about 10 of us that voted.

FADEL: And Brianna (ph) brought a few of those friends that have never voted to this rally today.

MARTIN: But let's look at diversity from a different perspective, though. There are conservative women who say that they don't necessarily feel welcome in these kinds of marches. Did you see any discussion of that?

FADEL: Well, you know, I did ask national organizers about that. I asked them, are conservative women welcome at these rallies, at these marches? And they said, yes, of course they are welcome, but they are welcome really on a progressive platform. The platform is very clearly progressive - pro the rights of women to have abortions, very clearly against this president. So women who support this president who have a different opinion, they don't feel welcome in these marches and rallies, and I haven't met any of them at these rallies.

MARTIN: So what sense do you get about where this is going next? Do organizers have a sense of what they will see as success?

FADEL: Well, I think they're saying they're already seeing signs of success over the last year. They cite things like Ashley Bennett in New Jersey, a young woman who heard a county official mocked a women's march last year, and so she said, OK, I'll run. And then she ran, and she won. And so they're citing examples of that as already the start of success. Other organizations like EMILY's List, for example - it's an organization that trains progressive women to run for office - says that more than 26,000 women are signed up to run this year. So I think we'll really see what kind of success that looks like come November. But the women organizers here say women are standing up like they've never stood up before.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Leila Fadel in Las Vegas. Leila, thank you.

FADEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.