Alex Newell Taylor has gone from West Palm Beach preschool teacher to political activist with a plane ticket to Washington, D.C., in the span of a few months. There, she intends to join a crowd of up to 200,000 for the Women’s March on Washington Saturday, the day after President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Sharon Marshall and Cristina Bond will be there too, as will thousands of others from Palm Beach County and the rest of Florida.
Washington is expected to be awash in visitors as hundreds of thousands — possibly more than 1 million if Trump’s predictions hold — attend the inaugural festivities. The Women’s March organizers expect 200,000 people — it’s been reported that 1,000 permits have been requested for buses coming from every corner of the U.S.
But activists don’t have to leave the state to make their point. A sister march — one of hundreds worldwide — is planned for West Palm Beach at noon Saturday.
Newell Taylor, who recently moved back to Palm Beach County from California, leads the local charge. On a recent Saturday, she was joined in Lake Worth by two dozen other locals to who made signs to carry the event in D.C. or West Palm Beach.
She said she felt “an incredible sense of loss and grief” from the moment Trump declared victory, and decided she had to get involved, “to do something every day.”
When she opened Facebook one day and saw a call for help, she saw her opportunity and volunteered to be the march’s West Palm Beach-area captain. Newell Taylor’s first foray into political action quickly consumed every free moment.
“It’s taken over my life since then — in a great way,” she said, laughing.
March organizers say they want to “send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights.”
“We don’t have the luxury of sitting at home,” Newell Taylor said. Women “can’t stick their heads in the sand.”
Though there have been some safety concerns, Newell Taylor seems unfazed. National organizers hired a private security firm, and more than 1,000 people have been trained as “marshals” who will work alongside legal observers.
“We’re not rabble-rousing, or practicing civil disobedience,” she said.
Sharon Marshall of West Palm Beach said she was acting on a promise she made to herself years ago.
“I told myself, if Roe v. Wade is ever in jeopardy, I would march wherever needed,” she said as she turned white poster board into a banner for Planned Parenthood that she will wave in the nation’s capital.
Marshall said she plans to drive north and stay in Virginia with her college-age son. The two plan to take the train into the city for the rally.
The election results served as a wake-up call to Cristina Bond as well. She’s taking a bus north with other Florida attendees.
“My New Year’s resolution was to fight, and fight hard,” said the West Palm Beach resident.
U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, a Democrat whose district includes much of central and southern Palm Beach County, will be there, too. She is co-hosting a breakfast for Florida organizers the morning of the event.
“We want to send a message to our new government on the first day in office that women’s rights are human rights, that we are standing together recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us,” Frankel said. “It is to be peaceful. That’s what our democracy should be about — making our voices heard, standing up for our safety, our rights, our families.”
Frankel senses “a lot of fear” among women that the incoming administration could cost them access to health care, including services provided by Planned Parenthood and benefits available under the Affordable Care Act.
“This is a productive way for people to channel their anxiety in a peaceful way with a strong message to not only the president-elect but to the Congress that will be there, that we are watching, that women are watching, that we are on our toes and we care very deeply about our country and our rights,” Frankel said.
Lake Worth resident Star Fae will exercise her political activism closer to home. After organizing a protest that drew hundreds to a green space in front of Trump Plaza in downtown West Palm Beach just days after the election, Fae volunteered to organize a local Women’s March in the same spot Saturday. However, it had to be moved to the Meyer Amphitheatre just north of Trump Plaza because of the expected crowd.
“I noticed there wasn’t anything happening in Palm Beach County, and I wanted to fill that void here,” Fae said. “Everything has just snowballed.”
The response has been “overwhelming,” she added: “We’re giving people a place to express themselves and their First Amendment rights. That’s so important right now.”
With so many people involved, Newell Taylor said organizers want to keep their momentum going after the march.
“We feel like the 21st (of January) is just the beginning,” she said. “This a big grassroots movement. We can get things done.”
National and state organizers have helped create a pipeline of solidarity provided groups across the U.S. with assistance — from coordinating flights to buses — and Newell Taylor said that’s played a large role in encouraging people to make the trip.
“If someone wants to go, I’m going to help them go. If I have to stuff them in my suitcase, we’ll get them there,” she said.
LOCAL WOMEN’S MARCH
A Women’s March will be held in Palm Beach County on the same day as the national event, joining more than 300 other cities.
Where: Meyer Amphitheatre, 104 Datura St., West Palm Beach
When: Noon, Saturday
Information: Go to www.womensmarchwashingtonfl.com or www.womensmarch.com; or email firstname.lastname@example.org