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Why Women's March Organizers Are Focused On Polls In Nevada This Year


It was the largest single-day demonstration in U.S. history. A year ago this Sunday, liberal women flocked to Washington, D.C., by the hundreds of thousands to express outrage the day after President Donald Trump's inauguration. Similar protests happened throughout the country, throughout the world. This weekend, people will take to the streets again. But unlike last year, the marquee event is a rally in Las Vegas. NPR's Leila Fadel sent this report.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Why Las Vegas you ask? It's a far cry from the Capitol where over a million marchers came together last year.


UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) My body, my choice.

FADEL: And that's why national organizers like Bob Bland, a founder of the original march, chose it for the anniversary.

BOB BLAND: It was more important for us to create an event somewhere strategic that reflected the work that needed to be done in 2018. And Nevada is an example of a battleground state that went for Hillary Clinton and went blue for the first time in 2016.

FADEL: That year, Nevada also elected the first Latina senator. And with midterm elections coming up, Bland says she and her three co-founders want to highlight that work and go to a battleground state where women are running for local, state and national offices. They're going to register and mobilize voters, and after this Sunday, they'll head to 10 other swing states for rallies around the country.

BLAND: We are the leaders we've been waiting for. There's no better time than now.

FADEL: Organizers say they're using the anniversary to harness the momentum of the past year into voter power. They call themselves the resistance, the resistance to this administration, and so many conservative women say they don't feel welcome at these marches and rallies. One of the big criticisms was the march in D.C. was mostly white, liberal women. This year, organizers say they are reaching out to local partners after a year of grassroots work to try to access a cross section of America, from minorities to the disenfranchised to women in low-income communities.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I'm going to put equality on there.

FADEL: At the Las Vegas Indian Center, Indigenous women are making signs for the rally. I see the words rise, equality, protect our lands, written in colorful marker and adorned with illustrations. Many here didn't march last year.

MERCEDES KRAUS: This is my oldest daughter.

FADEL: That's Mercedes Kraus, a local organizer in the Indigenous community, and she's helping mobilize people for the rally and to vote. But she's also determined to vocalize issues that concern Native American women.

KRAUS: All of us are going to be wearing red in solidarity with our missing and murdered Indigenous women.

FADEL: She refers to the disproportionate violence against Indigenous women that often goes unnoticed. According to the Center for Disease Control, murder rates are highest among non-Hispanic black women and Indigenous women. Krause says she wants to highlight her community on the national stage.

KRAUS: And I've been going nationwide to conferences and meeting spaces where we're talking about diversity. But even in those spaces, most of the time if I don't speak up and mention our community, they're not among those recognized.

FADEL: Across town, I meet Bethany Khan at the Culinary Union. The union is a strong force in this town. It represents some 57,000 hospitality workers, and more than half of its members are Latino. This year, they're a partner in organizing the rally, chosen because of their strong track record of community organizing.

BETHANY KHAN: We're fighting to protect DREAMers. We're fighting to protect workers who have Temporary Protected Status. And I think Nevada is a really good example for how everyday organizing in the communities that we care about and live in make a difference.

FADEL: Since the Women's March in 2017, EMILY's List, an organization that trains progressive women to run for office, says more than 26,000 have signed up to run. Leila Fadel, NPR News, Las Vegas.

(SOUNDBITE OF MAYBESHEWILL'S "FAIR YOUTH") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.