Knoxville Women’s March 2.0

Women’s March 2.0, Knoxville, January 2018

It’s been a year since the original Women’s Marches took to the streets all over the world and made an unprecedented statement in Knoxville. I noted last year that in my 35 years in Knoxville and having observed many demonstrations of various stripes, I’d never seen anything like it. The crowds, estimated at 3,000 to 5,000 dwarfed the largest demonstrations I’d ever seen here. Typically measured in the dozens – if that – there was nothing in our recent history to compare.

The, then recent, election of Donald Trump as the forty-fifth President of the United States had stunned many and, while there were many causes represented at the marches, they were widely understood to be a reaction against him personally. Seen by Trump’s supporters as sore losers, “get over it,” became a familiar refrain for those opposed to the marchers.

Women’s March 2.0, Knoxville, January 2018

Women’s March 2.0, Knoxville, January 2018

Women’s March 2.0, Knoxville, January 2018

It was a fair question: Would the marchers, “get over it?” The marchers had accomplished one thing: Previously inexperienced organizers had, in very short order mobilized perhaps the largest march in recent Knoxville history. But what would happen next? Would these women and their supporters retreat to their previous level of involvement? They marched, but would they vote?

The national answer to that question has been fairly consistent and clear in the year since: More women than ever are running for office and are being elected. Locally, our recent city council elections reflected the national trend. Women won in every single district in which a woman ran. Four newly elected women joined our city council in December and none of them had ever run for office before.

Women’s March 2.0, Knoxville, January 2018

Women’s March 2.0, Knoxville, January 2018

Women’s March 2.0, Knoxville, January 2018

Women’s March 2.0, Knoxville, January 2018

Still, as the date of the Women’s March 2.0 approached, I wondered how it would compare to last year’s march. It’s been a year, perhaps some of the enthusiasm had waned. As the announcement was made that the Traditionalist Workers Party (a white nationalist group led by Matthew Heimbach and best known for their involvement in the Charlottesville protests) would join in support of the March for Life, an anti-abortion group holding a rally on the World’s Fair Park, I heard some women say they may stay away for fear of violence.

The other cultural shift that has happened in the last year, and which may have played a part in attendance of this year’s march, was the #metoo movement. Women in large numbers have publicly discussed the sexual harassment or sexual assault they have experienced. The issue played a pivotal role in the Alabama senatorial contest that saw that deeply red state elect a Democratic senator for the first time in a generation.

Women’s March 2.0, Knoxville, January 2018

Women’s March 2.0, Knoxville, January 2018

Women’s March 2.0, Knoxville, January 2018

Women’s March 2.0, Knoxville, January 2018

The answer to the questions of sustained energy and intensity was perhaps more stunning than the numbers attending the march last year: Knoxville police estimates put the attendance of this year’s march at 14,000. That we are talking about a small city the most conservative region of a conservative state puts that number in sharp relief.

Consider that local activists were given a choice in Knoxville yesterday: They could support the Traditionalist Workers Party if they agreed with white nationalists, they could support Antifa – an aggressive response to the alt-right – they could support the Right to Life/Anti-Abortionists with the March for Life, or they could support the more progressive Women’s March. Lots of options for different belief systems. How did the numbers stack up?

Traditionalist Workers Party: 18 (my count)

Antifa: 20 (my count)

March for Life: 700 (Knoxville Police Department Estimate)

Women’s March 2.0: 14,000 (Knoxville Police Department Estimate)

Women’s March 2.0, Knoxville, January 2018

Women’s March 2.0, Knoxville, January 2018

Women’s March 2.0, Knoxville, January 2018

Women’s March 2.0, Knoxville, January 2018

You might argue that one or more of those groups has silent support that puts their group at a different level of support than that reflected in the numbers from a one-day snapshot, but it’s hard to argue who is more motivated. Will it translate to the voting booth going forward? That question will dominate state and national politics for the next ten months.

A number of current candidates and office holders attended the various rallies. Not surprisingly, none joined the two smallest groups, but it’s instructive for voters to know who attended which of the two larger rallies. Mayor Rogero addressed the Women’s March and was seen greeting people waiting in line to enter the rally area. Also attending the Women’s March and standing on stage: City Council members Finbarr Saunders, Stephanie Welch, Lauren Rider, Seema Singh Perez, Gwen McKenzie and Marshall Stair, and County Commissioner Evelyn Gill. Rene Hoyos, U. S. congressional candidate in Tennessee’s second district, accepted an award from the group, Joshua Williams, candidate for U.S. Congress in Tennessee’s second district, and State Representative Rick Staples attended.

Women’s March 2.0, Knoxville, January 2018

Women’s March 2.0, Knoxville, January 2018

Women’s March 2.0, Knoxville, January 2018

Women’s March 2.0, Knoxville, January 2018

Speaking at the March for Life: Gubernatorial candidates Randy Boyd, Bill Lee and U.S. Representative Diane Black. Also attending the rally were state representative Bill Dunn, Knox County Mayor and candidate for the U.S. Representative for Tennessee district two, Tim Burchett, and State Senator Becky Duncan Massey.

Regarding the rally and march, there were differences readily apparent from the beginning: Streets were barricaded and a much larger police presence was apparent than would have been true the past. The Traditionalist Workers Party marched in formation from the Locust Street Garage. The rally was held on Krutch Park and security searches were required at a single entrance.

Women’s March 2.0, Knoxville, January 2018

Women’s March 2.0, Knoxville, January 2018

Women’s March 2.0, Knoxville, January 2018

Women’s March 2.0, Knoxville, January 2018

Unfortunately, many people missed the rally because they were standing in the line to be searched. At its worst, it snaked the block out Clinch to Gay, went south a block on the western side of Gay, before crossing Gay and heading north for a half-dozen or so blocks. This was forty-five minutes after the beginning of the rally. As a result, no photograph will capture the full crowd in Knoxville. It’s unfortunate that one security check point was provided to screen the twenty TWP attendees and the same number of check points was provided for 14,000.

A major shift seemed afoot to me in terms of theme. While thousands of people attending a rally are going to reflect a wide range of opinions and focus on very different issues, far more posters reflected a focus on voting, elections and, specifically, mid-term elections.

Women’s March 2.0, Knoxville, January 2018

After the rally, the group marched out Market Street to the federal courthouse and back along Walnut to Union before returning to Market Square and dispersing. Plans are underway for another march a year from now. I’ll have another 120+ photographs of the march on the Inside of Knoxville Facebook Page later today.


  1. Chase Abrahamson says:

    I am a huge Trump supporter,a stronger economy, the cutting of over reaching regulations, knowIwdge of who is coming into the country and a stronger military helps women and men alike. I don’t see why promoting women and supporting Trump can’t go together. The protest unfortunately seemed more like a political one than a pro women one. It assumes Trumps policies are bad for women and good for men.

  2. I am a woman who grew up during the first feminist movement (60’s and 70’s), and it shaped my whole outlook on myself and what I could accomplish. I have never thought of myself as strictly a “woman”, but rather a “person”; a person not only with equal opportunity, but equal responsibilities. I did my stint in the Air Force serving overseas, and have occupied careers mainly dominated by men and I have been very happy with the opportunities in my life. Women now are in a better position than we have ever been before.

    I did not attend the first, or the second annual women’s march, mainly because I feel that:

    Women are hypocrites.

    We get righteous indignation and are extremely offended when we are treated as sex objects, and yet we still dress and behave as sex objects. For example, breast implants and showing deep cleavage, high heels and tight mini-skirts. War paint and provocative mannerisms, all aimed at men and the sexual power we want to wield over them. And then we get offended when they respond in kind. And guess what, I’ve been in many an all-girl gathering in my life where women do nothing but criticize and malign men, for being “men”, so “locker-room” talk is not only a male pastime.

    And then there’s the demand that we have equal rights and equal opportunities, but we still demand that men pay for everything, and behave “like a gentleman”, i.e., open doors for us. The man that would suggest a date pay for her own meal and movie ticket would be black-balled and probably never get a second date. “What a cheap b*****d!”.

    If I were a man, I would be completely confused by women. We want the benefits of equality, without having to be accountable and responsible. We want our cake and eat it too.

    I feel that women should stop focusing on what is wrong in the world, and instead make a life for ourselves given the wonderful opportunities we already have. Just doing that will make our daughters’ lives even more rich.


  3. Terri Likens says:

    Glorious and empowering. Let’s not fall off this wave.

  4. Richard Hood says:

    Thank you. I was moved and energized by the march/rally. I thought the focus had changed from attackingTrump (“Bad Guy”) to attacking the structures and cultures that raise people like Trump, in spite (or perhaps because of) their personal, financial, and political crimes. The movement is maturing, and won’t be stopped.

  5. Wanda Sobieski says:

    Great pictures. Very informative. Thanks for your good work!

  6. At least the Antifa folks didn’t start any fires this time.

  7. Wana Eastridge says:

    Crowd watching I saw old, middle age, young, and children. As I watched I thought about how much better my opportunities were than my mother and grandmother’s. Tears came to my eyes as I thought about the future of those female children. Their lives will be better because of what we are doing today. I am so blessed to be a part of this and appreciate all that the volunteers did to make this happen.

  8. Thanks for documenting the day, Alan! I missed the actual march, and the sea of signs, but your pictures make me laugh and smile. I am proud of our evolving and growing movement. Yesterday was educational for me in more ways than one – I had conversations with people I’d never met before on issues I’d not been aware of before. That, to me, is one of the greatest benefits of the wave of activism and engagement that is sweeping Knoxville and the nation. We are all better citizens and human beings when we take the time to learn about the people beyond our own circles of experience. Great article – thanks again.

  9. Carol Forman says:

    Besides more security check points for next year, a higher stage for speakers, better sound system and a larger gathering area is needed. I attended last year and was thrilled at the increased attendance. Some who came with me last year stayed home to watch the NFL playoffs and would have come to a Saturday rally. Very proud of East Tennessee!

  10. So inspired! I went home to paint and had a continued sensation of LOVE going through my fingertips!

  11. Tracy Haun says:

    People still pretend that Boyd and Burchett are “secretly” moderate.

  12. Kerri Martin says:

    Thank you for pointing out that only one security check-point was provided for the Women’s March. I realize KPD could not anticipate there would be 14,000 this year, given that there were about 5,000 last year; however, even if only half as many of those who attended last year had come, more check points should have been provided. I hope KPD is better prepared to accommodate our peaceful protest next year. I am certainly glad they had a heavy presence with the hate group, and do appreciate them for being there.

  13. Michael Gill says:

    Thanks for a great job of reporting.

  14. Jaclyn Levy says:

    ♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️✊ I couldn’t be there in person due to being out of town, so I’m so glad to have your coverage of it. Exciting times. Great reporting. Especially helpful understanding which events our elected leaders attended.

  15. Thank you for your thoughtful and objective account of the day.
    I’m proud of our city.
    Maybe next year there will be easier access to the rally…
    Good to note which elected officials were present at the separate events, too.

  16. Bob Sutton says:

    What a lovely sea of peaceful thoughtful voters. Great job Alan!

    We are so lucky to have such a great journalist doing this for us!

    No drop off in attendance. Feet are moving… Good stuff

  17. Sabrina DeVault-Greene says:

    It was a great day in Knoxville! Thank you for the recap!

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