Miami-Dade County

How Miami got its own rally to coincide with the Women’s March on Washington

Demonstrators march along Biscayne Boulevard in protest against President-elect Donald Trump on Nov. 11.
Demonstrators march along Biscayne Boulevard in protest against President-elect Donald Trump on Nov. 11.

A few days after Donald Trump won the presidential election, Stephanie Myers scrolled down her Facebook feed and read a post by Laura Broder, an old Miami Palmetto Senior High School classmate she hadn’t spoken to in two decades.

Did anyone want to organize a South Florida event timed with the Women’s March on Washington, the big protest planned for the day after Trump’s inauguration?

Myers quickly wrote back: Me!

And so Myers, who has no history of political activism, and Broder, who does, began putting together what would become the Women’s Rally of South Florida.

“We really felt it was important for the rest of the country — and people around the world — to stand in solidarity with the people who can’t make it to D.C.,” said Myers, 42, who lives in Fort Lauderdale. “The rhetoric of this cycle was just so divisive.”

Broder, who’s also 42 and lives in Boca Raton, said she got “hundreds” of responses to her initial post, inspired by the post-election frustration shared among herself and other members of Pantsuit Nation, a pro-Hillary Clinton Facebook group.

“It’s OK to be on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, disseminating information. It’s OK to do that,” Broder said. “But, really, the only way to enact positive change and to fight back against some of the things that you might find troublesome is to get involved and do something.”

She cited her own family experience: Broder said her grandparents perished when ValuJet Flight 592 crashed into the Everglades in 1996. The victims’ families later successfully lobbied for the Federal Aviation Administration to improve its inspections of hazardous materials on airplanes.

To organize the local rally, Myers took the lead, eventually creating a Facebook group that has amassed about 6,000 members, she said. So far, 3,000 people have RSVP’d to the rally, Myers added, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21, at downtown Miami’s Bayfront Park amphitheater. It will coincide with the massive D.C. rally, where hundreds of thousands of people are expected. Progressive advocacy organizations, such as For Our Future, have provided assistance.

The Miami event is intended to serve as a catchall for various causes advocating for human rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigrant rights and environmental rights — which could make it difficult to convey a single, unified message.

One thing Myers doesn’t want is for the rally to turn into an anti-Trump protest.

“Human rights are not a partisan issue, and they should not be a partisan issue. We just need to come together as a community and really showcase that, and stand as one united voice,” Myers said. “None of the speakers are going to be allowed to specifically mention Trump.”

The approach is far different from the one being taken by the Anti-Trump Action Committee, a group that has advertised a march in front of Bayfront Park at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 20, Inauguration Day. The same group put together some local anti-Trump street protests in November.

“The people of South Florida will join with the people across the country to denounce Donald Trump’s xenophobic agenda,” ATAC said in a news release. “We will continue to take to the streets in large numbers because we cannot count on the politicians in Washington to stop the implementation of anti-worker, anti-immigrant, Islamophobic, and chauvinistic policies by the Trump administration.”

The women’s rally has secured the Bayfront Park amphitheater and paid for security. There will be a mistress of ceremonies — Tracy Wilson Mourning, the philanthropist and wife of former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning — a program of speakers from various nonprofit organizations, music and a live feed to watch the D.C. march. Sister rallies are planned across Florida, including in Orlando, Tallahassee and St. Petersburg.

“People from Philadelphia or Chicago tend to be active,” Broder said. “If we can get South Florida active, we can get everybody active.”

Miami Herald staff writer David Smiley contributed to this report.