Nearly 300 progressives huddled on the steps of City Hall Sunday, trying to outshout a gale-force wind with their message that 2019 needs to be a big political year for women and the left in general.
The annual Women's March, organized by the Western New York Peace Center with some 70 co-sponsors, stepped off on a short downtown route after listening to more than a half-hour of speeches.
"We are all here in spite of the cold … because we are all here to stand up for ourselves, for each other, and opposed to all forms of oppression," Peace Center Executive Director Vicki Ross said.
"2019, the year of the woman!" former Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant shouted as the crowd whooped its approval.
"Everywhere in the United States women are leading and they can be elected — except this building," Grant said, pointing at City Hall. "Three levels of government. Who are they run by? Men."
At present, the Buffalo Common Council and all the elected executive branch positions are held by men.
"Keep achieving. Run for office and win," Grant advised the mostly female crowd.
"We did not come this far to come just this far," said former Deputy Mayor Ellen Grant, representing the Western New York Women's Foundation. "We have the momentum, we have the power to achieve. We are writing a new chapter. It's not just 'we the people' but 'she the people.' "
"We still only occupy 23 percent of all elected offices," said Cheryl Hughes of the New York State United Teachers. "Sisters, we need to recognize, cultivate and support each other until this rises."
"Women's solidarity does not mean placing more women in government without questioning that government's role in supporting U.S. and U.S. allies' imperialism that is hurting women around the world daily," said Bridget O’Neill of the Buffalo Degenderettes.
Wearing a T-shirt commemorating Rosa Luxemburg, a Marxist revolutionary killed when a Communist uprising in Berlin was suppressed 100 years ago, O'Neill spoke of "the brutality of global capitalism."
"Women's solidarity does not mean hoping for more women CEOs. It means supporting the current wave of teachers' strikes that is being led by women of color," O'Neill said.
"Speak out against those insurance companies that think they know what care you need," Deidra EmEl of the Peace Center shouted. "We're going to talk about systemic capitalism. It leads to systemic oppression, systemic racism. It creates stress. It creates depression. It creates ill health."
"Using our military to enforce our borders against refugees and asylum seekers is not only an abuse of power, it's also a stain on every American," said Diana Patton of the We Exist Coalition.
Marie Malinowski of the Poor People's Campaign of Western New York decried the cutoff of food stamps once a worker reaches an income threshold.
"We get called a bunch of names I'm not going to repeat. It's not fair. It's our right to live. We are not a burden to society. We contribute to society just as much as everybody else."
"We're standing here to support women's right to choose," Ross said, referring to abortion rights. "There's something about other people thinking they can decide about women's bodies. There's a huge, gigantic problem."
The crowd marched past Police Headquarters and the Erie County Holding Center, carrying signs and chanting slogans.
"Socialist Feminism is the Future," declared one placard.
"Babes Against Bigots," read another. "Revolution is Not a One-Time Event," declared a third sign.
And one apparent Harry Potter fan had a placard that read, "If It Weren't for Hermione, Harry Would Have Died in Book One."