Karen Hinkel, Jessica Rogers and Cheetah McClellan, the creators of Women’s March on Denver, aren’t community organizers. They aren’t politicians or board members. They’re just three women who want to march for their rights. And on January 21 — alongside thousands of others — they will.
The march, which is meant to be a demonstration of solidarity in human rights in opposition to the president-elect and his administration, began as creating a simple Facebook event page. McClellan had created it “out of frustration that [she] couldn’t find a march in Denver related to the [Women’s March on] Washington” and to her surprise, it has spiraled into a massive event that is now expected to welcome at least 15,000 people. The mission statement, which can be found on the event page, also has an outline of why they plan to march. It includes supporting women’s health care and reproductive rights, advocating for and defending marginalized groups and serving as a model of peaceful demonstration.
The day after McClellan made that page, a different one that was organizing a group of people heading to Washington for the Women’s March on Washington connected her with Hinkel and Rogers. The three exchanged information and planned to meet a few days later. By that time, thousands of people had RSVP’d and they’d already raised thousands of dollars — all of which came from the community itself. “Every dollar we’ve raised so far has been from individual donations,” said McClellan. “We are not taking or asking for any sort of corporate or big money sponsorships.” The women want everyone to know that this event is being organized by the people, for the people.
While the event may have started casually, the women have taken all the proper steps to ensure the march is a legal, organized and professional event. They’ve worked continuously with the City of Denver, who McClellan said has been “super helpful” and “wonderful,” and have secured a first amendment permit for the event. According to the City and County of Denver website, this permit “provides adequate notice to the City about logistics and safety issues and plans can be made accordingly for public safety and services.”
Since meeting about two months ago, the women have spent most of each day, seven days a week planning this event — all while balancing their day jobs and family lives, too. McClellan is a math interventionist at Colfax and owns Alpine Chimney Sweep with her husband. Hinkel is a realtor, and owns philanthropic real estate company TKH Realty with her husband as well. Rogers is a contract librarian, bookbinder, and book and paper conservator. In their organization for the march, however, the women don’t have any specified titles. “We never gave ourselves roles because never felt that it was necessary or important,” said Rogers. Hinkel added, “we’re all equal.”
While the women are working very hard on their own, they’ve garnered a lot of help from other members of the community. They have liaisons working with them from diverse communities in the city, they have hundreds of volunteers helping them both before and at the event, and they couldn’t have done any of it without the generous donations they’ve received. They have a full list of the community partners and organizations they’re working with on their website. To these women, the success they’ve had in organizing is representative of something larger.
“In my experience, finding really good, solid support from other women can be hard,” said McClellan. “This is what happens when women support each other,” she explained in reference to the event. The women are working hard to use inclusive and intersectional approaches to this support as well. They made diversity a priority when looking for speakers and performers, and are working with their community liaisons to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard.
“The experience I’ve had in America is entirely different from the experience a lot of Americans have had, based solely on skin color, sexual orientation or religion,” said Rogers. “I have had access to a different America…realizing that totally shifted my perspective.” That new perspective is one they’ve worked to implement in their organizing. “We recognize as white women that our message will be received differently than it would from a [woman of color],” said McClellan, and she explained that they keep this in mind at every turn of the organization process.
While the exact schedule itself is still being fine-tuned, the agenda for the march is mostly worked out. The march takes place at Denver Civic Center Park and will begin at 9 a.m., and the rally will follow at 11:15 a.m to 3 p.m. The speakers and performances will take place during the rally. There are two routes for the march; they’re similar, but one is shorter in length for those desiring something less physically demanding. Both routes begin at Voohries Memorial Pond and end at the Greek Auditorium. You can refer to their website for any other details you may need. These include their mission statement, parking and transportation tips, detailed maps of the routes, ways to volunteer and/or donate, information about the speakers and performers and more.
The women want to assure us that the work will not stop at the march. While Hinkel will have to move on after everything is tied up with the event, McClellan and Rogers have a “blurry vision” of how to implement its momentum into real change. “People are just so hungry for action right now, and I think not tapping into that would be such a huge loss of potential,” said Rogers. McClellan added, “we would be fools to just let this energy dissipate.” In the meantime, the anticipation of the march continues to grow.
“The message that we are trying to send is that we are going to be so vigilant in the coming years. We are not going to see the loss of any rights for any groups and we will see no new legislation that diminishes those rights for any groups,” said Rogers. “We are all together and this group of people, walking down this road and coming to this rally — this is who [the administration-elect] has to contend with.”
All photography by Candace Peterson.