Reno, nicknamed “The Biggest Little City in the World,” isn’t exactly known as a hotbed of political resistance. A small group of people protesting Columbus Day and the Dakota Access Pipeline was purposefully hit by a car under the city arch back in October. The day afterDonald Trump’s election, the Reno Gazette-Journal estimated the turnout for the ensuing protest was “at least 100.”
So the organizers of Saturday’s Reno women’s march had low expectations, especially because it had been snowing like crazy and University of Nevada, Reno students were still on winter break. Nevada is an open-carry state, and there were safety concerns. Felicia Perez, a founder of the Reno Solidarity Network, which co-sponsored the march, told me she “thought if 200 people show up, it’s a win for Reno.”
But just before 9 a.m., the fenced-off streets in front of the federal courthouse began to swell with foot traffic. When marchers looked around to check themselves out, they saw a sea of fellow Northern Nevadans. It was the biggest assembly in the city’s history, larger than the anti-war marches of the ’60s and the 2006 immigration reform protests; 10,000 people attended, according to the Reno Police Department.
On Saturday, opposition to President Trump and his administration manifested in massive marches in large coastal cities like Washington, Los Angeles and New York. Less anticipated, however, was the explosion of resistance in smaller cities and towns across America. And while the Women’s March on Washington faced criticism for centering on the experiences of cisgender white women — a historically repeated navel-gazing made ever more insulting to minority communities by the fact that 53% of white women voted for Trump — Reno’s march was indigenous-led, and organized by activists of many races, religions, sexual orientations, abilities and gender expressions. White women stepped back during the day’s events and highlighted the long-standing advocacy work of communities of color.
When the marchers reached City Plaza, Janice Gardipe of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony offered a gentle blessing before Perez jumped onstage and turned the event into a rock concert:
“Buenos Dias! Good Morning Biggest Little Marchers! Que Viva La Mujer! Welcome to the resistance!”
She talked about the rage, sadness, and shock that she’d felt since Trump’s election. “I am the daughter of migrant parents. I am a queer, latinx woman of color. I am only alive today because of the Affordable Care Act. And yes, THIS IS what a woman can look like,” she shouted, ripping her pink pus*ycat hat off to reveal her bald head. The crowd exploded in cheers.
Helen Fillmore, a UNR student pursuing her master’s degree in hydrology and a descendant of the Washoe Tribe, got the biggest applause of the day when she repeated the Dakota pipeline organizing slogan: “Water is life.” In Nevada, where mining has polluted many water supplies, the message resonated.