PARK CITY — The hundreds of Respect Rally attendees who braved pounding snow and sub-freezing temperatures here Saturday morning were treated to a podium packed with Hollywood A-listers, thanks to the Sundance Film Festival.
The rally mirrored dozens of similar events happening around the country on the anniversary of the 2017 Women's March that brought tens of thousands together to advocate for women's rights, immigration reform, LGBTQ rights, environmental issues, workers' rights and more, shortly after the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
Tessa Thompson, star of numerous films and most recently last year's "Thor: Ragnorak," helped launch the event and got the crowd whipped into a frenzy in spite of weather conditions that may have kept some at home and created traffic gridlock around Park City.
"Until we see legislation and policies and a president who respects our humanity and treats us, all of us, with dignity, we must continue to gather and tell each other's stories," Thompson told the crowd. "Stories about the world we know we deserve to live in, a world that, with work, is within our reach.
"That is why we’ve come here today."
Park City High School student Sadie Ortiz said she had plans to become the first member of her family to attend college.
"I encourage my generation and future generations to vote and care," Ortiz said. "I want to set an example not just for my generation, but all generations, to stay engaged."
Longtime civil rights attorney Gloria Allred, who has handled numerous high-profile sexual harassment cases including representing three women who accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct amid the 2016 presidential campaign, said she believes a tipping point has been reached in the fight for gender equity.
"This entire year has been our winter of discontent," Allred said. "But it has also been the year of our awakening, and awake we are to the lack of respect and denial of our rights for women.
"This marks the end of fear being used as a weapon to silence women and to deny our rights," she said.
Allred also led the crowd in a chant of "resist, persist, insist, elect" and encouraged local participants to get involved in the effort to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. She said Utah could follow Nevada, which approved the long-dormant proposal last spring and become the 37th state to pass the proposed constitutional amendment.
Hollywood screen legend Jane Fonda followed Allred and received one of the most boisterous greetings of all the speakers Saturday. Fonda, who has been vocal on political issues going back to the Vietnam War, told the audience that protest alone was not an effective tool for changing the balance of power when it comes to equal rights for women.
"This kind of change dosen’t come about just through protest, it happens through organizing," Fonda said. "Rosa Parks wasn’t just any black woman who decided not to give up her seat. She was a trained organizer with the NAACP."
Hip-hop star, actor and film producer Common shared lyrics from a song he'd penned for the event, "The Day That Women Took Over" and shared that his earliest lessons about respect came from his mother. He told attendees that everyone should be striving for a love that "is greater than us."
"I call it agape love," Common said. "Because, agape love means we’re going to seek the good for our neighbor not just for ourselves. This is the type of love that fuels movements. It fueled a movement that opened up the ballot box so that women and black people could vote."
Motivating change through the election process was a theme that ran throughout the event, and Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson had opportunities to speak at the rally along with the stars.
Wilson, who has also declared her candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat that Orrin Hatch will vacate next year, invoked the memory of 19th century Utah politician Martha Hughes Cannon. Wilson said in 1896, Cannon became the first woman to win a State Senate seat and noted she was also a physician and a suffragist. Cannon also faced her husband in that race. Wilson shared a local newspaper editorial from that time with the ralliers.29 comments on this story
"Mrs. Mattie Hughes Cannon, Mr. Cannon's wife," Wilson read. "She's the better man of the two. Send Mrs. Cannon to the senate and let Mr. Cannon...stay at home and manage home industry."
Wilson also took a thinly veiled, but friendly, poke at former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is widely expected to pursue Utah's open Senate seat this year.
"It's pretty funny to me that this former governor of Massachusetts would want to be a Senator from Utah," Wilson said. "But, given I’m a fifth-generation Utahn, and I’ve lived here most of my life, I certainly understand why he’d want to live here."