Women’s March Tennessee shifted away from Nashville for the first time this year, and sacrificed the size of past turnouts in exchange for easier access for rural participants.
In its fourth year, the smaller crowd rallied on a rainy Saturday in Murfreesboro, drawing some attendees from as far as Jackson County and Huntsville, Alabama.
“It’s a struggle for people to make it to Nashville, and some of them don’t go there very often and don’t know their way around,” says community organizer Cathy Watts. “It’s a little intimidating, but they feel comfortable coming to Rutherford County.”
Angela Hedgecough, with the progressive political group Indivisible Tennessee, says she drove nearly two hours to attend. To her, choosing an area outside of a city is a step in the right direction for engaging communities.
“Maybe they can see that we’re not evil. We’re nice, and it’ll change minds,” Hedgecough said. “The more we can bring it to other areas, the better off we’ll be.”
Jack Key and Hannah Underhill drove in from Huntsville, because their home state didn’t have a march this year. Key said he was struck by the passion and enthusiasm.
“We want to try to bring some of that enthusiasm back home into our state,” he said.
In addition to being a hub for more rural counties, organizers said they are interested in helping progressive candidates in Rutherford County. Organizers and volunteers said such a change could depend on voter registration and engaging around issues like race, health care and climate.
Some attendees to Saturday’s march also conducted door-to-door canvassing in nearby neighborhoods.
In previous years, Women’s March Tennessee has drawn thousands to Public Square Park in Nashville, where some still gathered for a separate Nashville Women’s Rally.
Watts said the Murfreesboro event had over 550 people registered, but an estimated headcount well below that. In addition to the change in venue, Watts blamed the rainy weather.
Still, some said the change helps accomplish the movement’s overall goals.
“Davidson County is very much an island,” said Cathy Carrillo, “so in order for us to continue creating change and continue bringing up the topics that are important to people, it’s important for us to go to counties outside Davidson County.”
This story has been updated to clarify the number of registered participants.