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PIONEER VIEWPOINTS: Marchers take it to the streets

Walkers travel along State Highway 197/Paul Bunyan Drive Southeast near the Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues Saturday during the Bemidji Women’s March.

They came from all around the region. And the country. And the world.

An estimated 4 million people took to the streets in some fashion on Saturday to express their concerns about women's rights, education, minority rights, the environment and health care.

The spark that lit this fuse, of course, was the election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States, and it is no coincidence that the events worldwide took place a day after his inauguration.

And as with many factors in the past 18 months of political theater, the actual outcomes far exceeded presumed expectations.

Saturday's events centered around and were inspired by the national Women's March in Washington, D.C., where well more than 200,000 people rallied, a much larger turnout than anticipated. That theme carried out across the nation and the world: 750,000 people was the estimate for the Sister's March in Los Angeles, while Chicago had more than 100,000 people turn out and, like Washington, held a rally instead of a parade.

Those higher-than-anticipated crowds continued on a local and regional level, as well.

In Bemidji, a Facebook page dedicated to the local Women's March only had about 90 people confirmed by mid-week. Saturday's event was estimated to draw in more than 500 people.

Strong numbers also were counted in Fargo (1,000) and Grand Forks (300), and in St. Paul, nearly 100,000 people marched to the State Capitol for Women's March Minnesota, which was about five times more than what organizers expected. In fact, city officials said it was the

largest protest at the state's capitol since the Republican National Convention in 2008. That included a large contingent from the Bemidji area.

And why were people there?

When you have a firebrand such as Trump as president (do we really need to list all of his pronouncements?); he who wants to build a wall along the border with Mexico, or who wants to block immigrants from various countries, or says he will "drain the swamp" in Washington and yet attempts to fill that cabinet with billionaires, people are going to have some concerns. And that's just some vague policy talk. His taped "locker room" talk statements alone, were probably reason enough to spark Saturday's events. Concerns about women's rights, women's health and overall gender issues played a role in sparking Saturday's gatherings.

Lynn Fisher, one of the organizers of the Bemidji event, said, "I suppose it's kind of a statement to say OK, here we are, newly elected president. We're going to let you know that we want you to pay attention to women's rights and other organizations that have been kind of under fire here lately."

During his inauguration speech on Saturday, Trump championed the phrase "America first."

If that's true, then that includes all of America.

All Americans.

And many of them have fears about his presidency and what it could mean for progress in this country. It would have been wise for Trump to have acknowledged that he heard those voices and the concerns they carried from across the country, and worldwide, on Saturday. Instead, he mocked the gatherings, of course, via Twitter. "Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn't these people vote? Celebs hurt cause badly," tweeted Trump, at 7:51 a.m., PBS Newshour reported.

However, about an hour and a half later, Trump was a bit more presidential in his tweet:

"Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don't always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views," Trump tweeted at about 9:26 a.m.

Hey, maybe this is working.

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