PUNTA GORDA — It’s Aug. 18, 1920, and the 19th amendment is ratified to grant women the right to vote.

A hundred years later, women and men gathered nationwide Saturday to march for equality, reproductive rights and other issues.

This is the fourth year the march has happened in the U.S., and the first year a march has been hosted in Charlotte County. The march was hosted by the Charlotte Democratic Party, Indivisible SW Florida and Englewood Indivisible, and All Rainbow and Allied Youth, or ARAY.

Over 200 men, women and LGBTQ+ members marched from Laishley Park to the northbound U.S. 41 bridge between Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte.

“Women and men are marching to draw attention to the willful destruction of citizen’s rights — civil rights, workers’ rights, LGBTQ rights, migrant rights and women’s reproductive rights,” said Charlotte County Democratic Executive Committee chair Teresa Jenkins.

US congressional candidate Allen Ellison marched as well, expressing to the crowd how the country has come a long way in treating men and women equally, but has not come far enough.

“There is such beauty and strength in what it means to be a woman,” said Hal Trejo, the president of ARAY. Trejo at the march highlighted the seven transgender women of color who were murdered in Florida in the past two years.

“For me, as an LGBTQ+ person who is not a woman, I know that by supporting women and addressing issues that disproportionately affect women, we build a safer, stronger and more inclusive world for everyone, regardless of gender,” said Hal Trejo, the president of ARAY.

Among the various signs and flags was Nancy Turner, who was waving the 19th Amendment Victory Flag, which suffragettes used 100 years ago to celebrate gaining the right to vote.

“There’s many reasons why we’re out here marching now,” Turner said. “We’re going backwards.”

Meanwhile, Sandy Artman expressed how individual feels powerless by themselves. “The power is in the unity of everyone together,” she said, ecstatic at the turnout for the march.

“I don’t like the direction the country is making. We’ve got to make some change,” said Ray Cady. “What better time to make a point now later in life,” he said, hoping to build a better future for later generations.

“People talk about freedom,” said Petra Lurch, who was marching for awareness of inequality not only between genders but as well as races and ethnicity.

After the march, many attended the Peace River Pride festival, also at Laishley Park.


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