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On Anniversary Of Women's March, A Las Vegas Rally With A Tighter Focus: The Midterms

Saturday saw protesters take to the streets from New York to Los Angeles — from Nigeria to Iraq. Various incarnations of the second annual Women's March demanded social change, promoted female empowerment and declared a resistance to President Trump on the anniversary of his inauguration.

With Saturday's worldwide turnout, you could be forgiven for forgetting that, in fact, Sunday marks one full year since the original Women's March.

Its organizers knew, of course. And they made a conscious choice about where to host their flagship anniversary event: Las Vegas, Nev.

Its title, "Power To The Polls," reveals its stated objective: to direct the ire, unity and energy of its participants into voting booths for the next round of congressional elections in November.

Nevada was chosen for its status as a "battleground state that will shape the Senate in 2018," the organizers say on their website. Organizers have been quick to note that Hillary Clinton won Nevada in the 2016 election and that the state also recently elected the first Latina U.S. senator.

Organizers say Sunday's event is meant to be the beginning of a national voter registration effort across 10 states, with the goal of registering at least one million people, reports NPR's Leila Fadel.

Sunday's event was not a march, organizers say, but a rally, beginning at 10 a.m. local time inside the Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. Officials tell Fadel that although the venue can hold 40,000, they expected roughly 17,000. The organizers say they are less concerned with crowd size than with spreading their message. Nearly two hours after doors opened, Fadel estimated that thousands — many in the movement's trademark pussyhats — had filed into the stadium under clear skies.

The event features a slate of big names in the world of liberal activism: Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood; Melissa Harris-Perry, a professor and former MSNBC host; congressman and civil rights era icon John Lewis, D-Ga.; Alicia Garza of the Black Lives Matter movement.

"Women have beaten the odds to elect our own," Richards told the cheering crowd, referencing recent female candidacies. "Last year we dared to hope for a better, brighter, more equal and inclusive world. And this year we're going to go out and build it."

Critics argued that the original Women's March in Washington, D.C., featured and drew mostly white, liberal women. Organizers tell NPR they took that assessment to heart and increased outreach to a more diverse set of groups.

The crowd and lineup Sunday was "pretty diverse," Fadel reports. A Native American woman kicked off the day's speeches, reminding the audience that Las Vegas sits on historic native land and that indigenous women face a disproportionately higher rate of murder compared to their peers.

Fadel reports that, in a sense, political diversity was still limited. Conservative women appeared to be a rarity.

The Las Vegas rally, while one of the most prominent of the day, was not the only Women's March event planned for Sunday. According to a database kept by the organization, it appeared that dozens of both affiliated and unaffiliated marches and rallies were scheduled to take place.

Cities like Salem, Ore., and Phoenix, Ariz., also held rallies.

The Associated Press also reports that thousands of participants trudged through sleet and snow in central London, while a heavy rain doused a relatively small gathering in Paris, and thousands mobilized in Hyde Park in Sydney, Australia.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Chris Benderev is a founding producer of and also reports stories for NPR's documentary-style podcast, Embedded. He's driven into coal mines, watched as a town had to shutter its only public school after 100 years in operation, and, recently, he's followed the survivors of a mass shooting for two years to understand what happens after they fade from the news. He's also investigated the pseudoscience behind a national chain of autism treatment facilities. As a producer, he's made stories about ISIS, voting rights and Donald Trump's business history. Earlier in his career, he was a producer at NPR's Weekend Edition, Morning Edition, Hidden Brain and the TED Radio Hour.
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