Aware of the criticisms that have surfaced around the national Women’s March, hundreds of participants in Raleigh crowded in the state’s legislative courtyard Saturday preaching a message of intersectional feminism and equality for minorities, immigrants, and the LGTBQ community. 

But words can only go so far.

Activist Takiyah Thompson—a black woman who was arrested in 2017 after helping to topple a Confederate monument in downtown Durham—was singled out by police while marching with a sign held up by a stick. Most everyone in the crowd around her also had one, but police pulled Thompson to the side and began interrogating her, she said. Some, but not all, of the participants were asked to remove the sticks and other supports from their signs before entering the courtyard. 

Encircled by police officers, Thompson began to chant “Freedom! Freedom! All these racist cops, we don’t need ’em.” The white women around her kept walking.

“You could hear a rat piss on a cotton ball when I started that chant because everyone is afraid to affirm the rights of black women, of black people,” Thompson told the crowd.

Thompson was not arrested and was pulled on stage as the event’s first speaker.

Nationally, the Women’s March came under fire in December after some of its organizers were accused of anti-semitism and homophobia. Raleigh organizers took those criticisms to heart in crafting a message focused on social justice and racial equality. Wake County Commissioner Jessica Holmes referenced Martin Luther King Jr. in her speech, emphasizing that the movement cannot succeed unless all boats are lifted by the tide. 

“We have not reached the mountaintop when we have glass ceilings that are yet to be broken,” she told a roaring crowd. “There is but one way to reach the top of that mountain, and that is together. We are only as strong as our weakest link. We are only as strong as the sister some of us left behind today. We can’t do that and make it to the top of the mountain.”

Wearing pink pussy hats and holding handmade signs demonizing President Trump and praising Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the diverse—but majority white—crowd listened to speakers from the Southern Coalition for Justice and the League of Women Voters for Wake County. 

Madison Kimrey, a high school student, called on the crowd to support the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, which the Republican-controlled General Assembly has declined to do. 

She had a message for those politicians. 

“Your time is short. Our time is long, and we fight from higher ground,” Kimrey said.