Was the North County San Diego Women’s March Rally a progressive woke-fest where strident speakers and organized flash mobs railed against guns, sexual abuse and inequality? Where lefties get to wear rainbow flag capes and “My body, my choice” T-shirts?
Or was it a political event, an opportunity for local Democrats to lobby for votes even though the organizer refused to pay for law enforcement fees requested by the city?
The annual event, held in the open area near the fountains at the Oceanside City Hall, was organized by Sue Alderson, an adjunct teacher and counselor at UCSD. She uses the non-profit Broadbent Media as the non-profit responsible for the event.
Alderson says that between 1200 and 1500 attended the 2020 Women’s March held January 18. Oceanside police estimated there were between 600 and 700.
Even though the word “march” is still part of the official name of the event held during Martin Luther King Jr. birthday weekend, Alderson says there was no march connected with the rally this year.
Oceanside police spokesman Tom Bussey reports that there were no problems with the event. Still, the city determined that five uniformed officers needed to be at this year’s event. “It costs to have officers there…I understand there were problems with the permitting, but that is not our problem.”
Alderson says she paid the city of Oceanside a basic $355 fee and $250 for a one-day insurance policy. But the city wanted more.
“This year they decided to send me a bill for $1500 for like five sergeants and eight cops. I said ‘Are you serious? This is a woman’s rally. We’re not even having a parade. Nobody is marching. We were not closing any streets.’ I told them I was not paying for it. I told them ‘You guys need to figure this out.’ Seriously, we are a very, very grass roots organization. To pay $1500 for law enforcement is way too expensive. Oceanside was really paranoid about this, and I don’t know why.”
One city insider says the city allowed the event to proceed even though Alderson did not secure the law enforcement permit. A request for comment from city manager Deanna Lorson was not answered.
Groups who supported the Sally Hunt Foundation (shoes for children), Mosques Against Trafficking or Moms Against Guns paid $20 for the right to set up a table at the North County Women’s March.
About 20 Democratic officeholders or candidates paid $50 per table. Incumbents like congressman Mike Levin, Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath had tables, as did County Supervisor hopefuls Terra-Lawson Remer and Olga Diaz and 50th congressional candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar. (Levin, Diaz and Campa-Najjar appeared in person). Presidential hopefuls Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders had a presence. The Democratic Clubs of Escondido and Vista and candidates for Carlsbad, Vista and Oceanside city councils also paid for tables.
So what happened with the income from the Women’s March? Besides the $355 permit and $250 insurance policy, Alderson says the table space fees went to cover T-shirts, a DJ and a P.A. system.
And free whistles. After railing against human trafficking or how violent President Trump is against women, the speaker would exhort the crowd: “There is so much going on that pisses us off…Some things make me so mad I have to be a whistle blower,” which then triggered a whistle cacophony.
Though Congressman Levin was honored for helping to turn his district blue, and there was plenty of Trump hate speech on mic and with hand-drawn signs, Alderson says the North County Women’s March wasn’t all anti-Trump or pro-Democrat. “We want to be a voice to as many community activists as we can. Every voice counts.”
Of the demand for an additional law enforcement fee this year: “I think they misread this,” says Alderson about city officials. “They thought it was just going to be an anti-Trump political rally when it’s about women and women’s rights and violence against women.”
Leea Pronovost was one of the speakers at the Women’s March. She says if it was not for this event she may not have the opportunity to speak in such a public setting. Her cause was the reality that 25 transgender women of color have been murdered just for being who they were. “I wish it would have been someone of color [speaking] but because they couldn’t find one, I guess I was next the in line because of my Native-American descent.”
Pronovost goes by the name Two Spirit which she says refers to both her native American roots and her dual-gender identification. “I was born as a male. I can not deny my male side, yet I can also not deny my female side.” Pronovost works as a case manager for the Unicorn Homes project which provides shelter and other assistance for homeless youth aged 14-25. Unicorn Homes is part of Oceanside’s North County LGBTQ Resource Center.
“I only have good things to say [about the event],” says Pronovost.