This is What Democracy Looks Like: Women’s March #PowertothePolls in Las Vegas

On a chilly January morning, thousands of civic-minded Nevada residents gathered at Sam Boyd stadium for the first anniversary of the national Women’s March. This event also served as the inaugural #PowertothePolls rally, encouraging the multitudes gathered in solidarity to take their activism further — directly to the voting booth and into the halls of elected office.

Nevada, a crucial swing-state, has many important races in the 2018 midterm elections, including the reelection bid of Republican Senator Dean Heller. Heller has voted lock-step with President Trump on issues from healthcare to taxes. To ensure representation of the diverse voices at this rally and around the state, the speakers at the Women’s March #PowertothePolls urged Nevadans to make their voices heard in the voting booth come November.

Speakers today included Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood, Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, Alicia Garza of the Black Lives Matter movement, and motherfucking CHER.

The first Women’s March was really something special. The country was in such disbelief and pain over the electoral mishap of 2016. Hope, a key theme of the past eight years, seemed shrouded in a haze, perhaps permanently.

The spontaneity of the Women’s March set it apart from your typical protest. The largest protests in US history emerged out of nowhere all over the country with minimal organization. Let’s all meet at this spot. Tell your friends. Have them tell their friends. We’ll figure it out when we get there. Bring a sign. Keep any thoughts of violence at home, but let your family know where you’re at in case something goes down. Remember, this was Day 1 of the Trump Administration. Anything could happen.

Scene from the Las Vegas Women’s March 2017. Local artist Brent Holmes and children document the historic occasion while I document them.

What ended up happening was beautiful and empowering. Could the Women’s March, now a force to be reckoned with in national politics, recapture lightning in a bottle? Could they mobilize the outrage and motivation into actual votes and actual results?

The Power to the Polls event was different, to be sure. On its face, the Women’s March is less spontaneous and more Coachella. Big stadiums, musical entertainment, merchandise booths, hot dog stands. Marginalized groups clamored for their three minutes in the spotlight (complete with walk-off music if they went on too long) — they had to make sure Faith Evans had enough time for some smooth ’90s R&B jams, after all. But the event itself isn’t really what’s important. The message was received loud and clear by the women and men in the audience. Grab them by the midterms. Register to vote. Run for office. If you want more people like yourself in government, put yourself in government.

It remains to be seen whether or not the message remains strong through to Election Day in November. Midterm election turnout is always very low, favoring Republican voters. Is this the year that this changes? Stranger things have happened this past year. I’m not counting out Democracy just yet.

Are you registered to vote? If not, click here. It takes two minutes, tops. I promise.

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