Women’s March participants dump signs in front of Trump Hotel in D.C. @sfchronicle
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The Women’s March on Washington, a mobile protest organized in response to President Trump’s election, is under way in downtown Washington, D.C.
The event’s organizers are anticipating roughly 250,000 marchers, many of whom supported Hillary Clinton for president and are wary about the new administration’s policies towards women, as well as its approach toward the LGBT community, minorities, immigrant groups, and others. According to the march’s mission statement, participants aim to “send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world, that women’s rights are human rights.” Six hundred similar marches are being held Saturday around the country. Others have been organized around the world.
In Washington, a morning rally will be held at 10 a.m. ET, and the march will begin at 1:15 p.m. ET. We’ll bring you the latest updates from the nation’s capital as the day goes on.
Protest signs were ubiquitous at the Women’s March on Saturday. Some posters called for action (“Speak up for humanity”), while others portrayed messages of female empowerment (“The future is female”). By the afternoon, it became clear that many demonstrators didn’t plan to keep theirs for posterity’s sake. Instead, they left them behind in a conspicuous place:
The president opened his hotel in Washington last fall, just blocks away from his new home in the White House.
It wasn’t just the pussy-cat ears: Many of the signs in downtown D.C. employed the word made infamous by President Trump in the leaked Access Hollywood video in October. Women hoisted hand-sketched vaginas and drew cat shapes on their block letters. One even used the c-word. They are reclaiming “pussy,” they said.
Mary Trudeau, 47, came from Atlanta. “After the election I was so depressed,” she said. “I said, I have to go, I have to participate, because if I don’t I’ll feel like I just did nothing.”
Her sign was inspired by Trump’s words in the Access Hollywood video, she said. “Instead of it being a vulgar word, it being a word of empowerment for women. Everything about my person is for me to decide.”
Kerry Gaertner-Gerbracht had her 11-year-old daughter make her sign—she wanted to get involved. “Trump has brought the word to the national conversation,” Gaertner-Gerbracht said. “If this is what our president is saying, she should get comfortable with it, too.”
One element of Trump’s victory, she believes, was “the masculine fear of the vagina. It’s a very basic thing.”
Sinead Macleod, a 24-year-old from New York, said it was important to show female genitalia and “reclaim the grossness—and the beauty.
“During the debates when [Clinton] went to the bathroom, he said that was gross,” she said. “There’s no reason to be ashamed of it.”
Macleod might have out-done the other protesters in terms of female-anatomy drawings. She has an IUD tattooed on one ankle, and vagina dentata on the other.
I’m close to the White House now, on the Ellipse, the public, lawn-like area beyond the South Lawn of the executive mansion. Protesters are pouring onto the grass from all angles, and a dance circle has broken out in the center of the lawn. There are children frolicking around, and demonstrators are cheering and waving their signs.
The White House is where the protesters planned to finish their march. But President Trump, who many of them are specifically marching against, isn’t in the building. He left about an hour ago for a meeting in Langley, Virginia, with CIA officials.
Various celebrities and activists are still speaking at the Women’s March rally, which began roughly five hours ago.
“President Trump, I did not vote for you. That said, I respect that you are our president, and I want to be able to support you, but first I ask that you support me,” American actress Scarlett Johansson said from the stage. “I ask you to support all women in our fight for equality in all things.”
She told her fellow protesters that she’s hoping people discontented with November’s election results will become more politically active in their communities. “Let this weight not drag you down, but help to get your heels stuck in,” she said.
California Democratic Senator Kamala Harris told protesters at the Women’s March that she believes “we are at an inflection point in the history of our country.”
Harris, who recently became only the second black woman and first Indian-American woman to serve in the U.S. Senate, compared the moment to when her parents met “when they were active in the civil-rights movement.” Elaborating on the comparison, Harris said that it is a moment where Americans must collectively ask the question of “what kind of country America is.” “Ladies and gentlemen, I believe the answer is ‘a good one,’” Harris said. “Imperfect though we may be, I believe we are a great country.”
The lawmaker also said that women are tired of “simply being thought of as a particularly constituency or demographic.” Together, “we are powerful and we are a force that cannot be dismissed or written off onto the sidelines.”
Encouraging activism, Harris said: “It’s going to get harder before it gets easier,” but added that she believes “we will keep fighting no matter what.”
The women I’ve talked to so far are driven by a variety of issues, but for some, the future of reproductive rights is the biggest concern.
Dena Delaviz, from Columbus Ohio, held a sign that read “Abortions = healthcare,” and said she was inspired, in part, by a T.V. appearance by Planned Parenthood director Cecile Richards. She can’t understand Republicans’ desire to defund the organization. “Planned Parenthood sees Republicans, too,” she said.
Kaitlin Bruinius, a student at Appalachian State University, said she is worried about losing access to free birth control. Without the Affordable Care Act’s birth-control provision, her monthly contraceptives would be $80, she said. “It makes it a lot easier, but [Trump] doesn’t understand how great it is. He’s going to take it away without being in our shoes.”
Pooja Prasad, a doctor in Prince William County, Virginia said Obama’s election seemed to have made it more acceptable to talk about birth control and STD tests with her teenage patients. In her area, many teens rely on Planned Parenthood. Now, “I’m afraid that I’m going to have to tell teenagers that they can’t go and get free birth control, free pap smears.”
But many of the attendees were also worried about losing health insurance coverage in general, not just for reproductive care.
Yedda Olson, a high-school teacher from Wisconsin, road tripped through the night. She said many of her students’ families work in factories and rely on the Obamacare exchanges for insurance. Her former students want to stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26. “A lot of my former students are really worried about losing that,” she said.
“Reproductive rights are human rights,” Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards told protesters at the Women’s March.
She warned that the Republican-controlled Congress poses a threat to reproductive rights, and called on the assembled crowd to “call your members of Congress, call your senator, and say, ‘We cannot go back.’” She added: “One of us can be dismissed, two of us can be ignored, but together we are a movement, and we are unstoppable.”
Richards made a pledge to the crowd that the doors at Planned Parenthood will “stay open.”
“Planned Parenthood is not the problem,” she said. “We’re the solution.”
There are roughly 600 sister protests to the Women’s March on Washington that are being held around the country Saturday—and more around the world. The demonstrations in the United States are reflective of the grassroots way that women organized after the election, and perhaps foreshadow a new strategy for Democrats ahead of the 2018 midterms. They remind one political reporter of another movement entirely:
Here, a sampling of snapshots and footage from the marches:
New York City
The march through Chicago was canceled because the number of participants—some 150,000—grew too large. Instead, marchers are staying in place and extending the rally, which was scheduled to start at 10 a.m. local time. “There is no safe way to march. We are just going to sing and dance and make our voices heard here,” an organizer announced.
Smaller American cities are holding events, too:
Des Moines, Iowa
Charleston, South Carolina
And women have gathered in cities across the globe to march—similarly displaying signs that target the new American president.
Activist and filmmaker Michael Moore had a message for the crowd at the Women’s March: “We have to take over the Democratic Party.”
Moore took the stage to outline a plan of action to oppose the Trump administration, starting by urging the crowd to start calling their members of Congress “every single day” and calling upon young people and women to run for elected office themselves.
“The old guard of the Democratic Party has to go,” Moore said. “We need new leadership, we need young leadership, we need women’s leadership.”
Moore argued that public backlash over a move by House Republicans earlier in the month to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics prompted Republicans to quickly backtrack. He suggested that similar activism will get results in the future, though he failed to mention that the backtrack also followed a disapproving tweet from then-president-elect Donald Trump. “I’m telling you these calls work,” he said, “that’s how powerful you are.”
In the early morning hours of Saturday, a sea of color flowed into the nation’s capital. People descended from around the country to attend the Women’s March on Washington. Amid the crowds was a group of roughly 15 people donning butterfly wings inspired by Favianna Rodriguez, an artist based in California.
The imagery is meant to represent migration and beauty, said Alma Couverthie, the senior director of community organizing for CASA, a Maryland-based organization that focuses on Latinos and immigrants. CASA began planning for the march two weeks ago, with the additional purpose of representing immigrants.
Donald Trump, who made immigration a cornerstone of his campaign, has vowed to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and deport millions of undocumented immigrants. March attendees were fearful about what immigration policies the new administration may implement.
“I think it’s going to affect us—all of us,” said Madai Ledezma, who’s undocumented, in Spanish. “If they deport me, I don’t know what her situation will be,” she said, looking at her daughter who she had brought to the march. Ledezma, who’s participated with CASA for three years, added: “Perhaps, in the future, [attending the march] will help her, so she can fight for those of us that don’t have a voice.”
Fatima Coreas was in attendance to represent mothers like Ledezma. “[I’m here] for Latina mothers, who have left everything behind; they migrated to the United States to search for a better life for their kids,” she told me in Spanish. Coreas has a connection to mothers who have migrated for their children—she came to the United States from El Salvador with her mother in 2007, and was shielded from deportation by the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. “We’re here to show we’re present and planning on staying,” she said.
Ledezma and Coreas, with their wings securely fastened, promptly began chanting “Se ve, Se siente, el pueblo esta presente.” Translated to: “You see, you feel it, the town is present.” It didn’t take long before their chants dissipated into those of crowds around them: “This is what democracy looks like.” But it was no matter, as Ledezma said put it: the march is meant to represent everyone.
“Courage will not skip this generation,” Chairman of the National Board of Directors for the NAACP Roslyn Brock told the Women’s March crowd. “Courage will not skip this generation.”
Brock reminded the crowd that black women are a powerful force in elections, saying that they “exercised the right to vote larger than any other group in this nation,” but added that “the silence has been deafening for black women and their families who also feel forgotten and locked out of a prosperous society.”
She called upon the crowd to organize, and fight. “We will march on till victory is won,” she declared, referencing Lift Every Voice And Sing, an 1899 poem later adopted as the black national anthem.
I’m riding on the Metro’s Green line from the station in Petworth, to the north, to the L’Enfant station, in the south, and the train is holding for 5 to 10 minutes at each stop. The conductor keeps repeating that “due to amazing, outstanding turnout, we are holding to make room for people.” Riders aren’t mad—at least not yet—even though the Women’s March rally is already under way. They keep cheering when he says “amazing turnout.”
American political activist and feminist Gloria Steinem thanked the crowd assembled at the Women’s March rally, and thanked them for “understanding that sometimes we must put our bodies where our beliefs are.”
Reflecting on her life of activism, Steinem described the march as “an outpouring of energy and true democracy like I have never seen.” She added that the people gathered in Washington and across the country to march “is the upside to the downside.”
She suggested that Trump’s presidency will inspire a wave of continued activism. “When we elect a possible president, we too often go home. When we elect an impossible president, we’re never going home,” she said.
Steinem said that if a critical mass of people come together to oppose Trump, those people can prevail. “The Constitution does not begin with ‘I the president,’” she said, “it begins with ‘we the people.’”
The rally for the Women’s March on Washington is under way, and features a long roster of speakers with some of the celebrity star power that may have been missing from President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
American actress America Ferrera just spoke, warning the crowd that the new administration is a threat that must be opposed. “Marchers, make no mistake,” she said. “We are every single one of us under attack. Our safety and freedoms are on the chopping block, and we are the only ones who can protect one another. If we do not stand together, march together, fight together for the next four years, then we will lose together.”
Ferrera ticked off a long list of what the anti-Trump protesters out in full force Saturday must stand together to oppose: “the demonization of our Muslim brothers and sisters,” attacks on LGBTQ rights and access to abortion, “the systemic murder and incarceration of our black brothers and sisters,” and building walls.
“It’s been a heart-rending time to be both a woman and an immigrant in this country,” she said. “Our dignity, our character, our rights have all been under attack, and a platform of hate and division assumed power yesterday. But the president is not America. His Cabinet is not America. Congress is not America. We are America.”
Suzanna Walters, 54, traveled from Boston to attend the march. “I’ve been coming to marches for a long time. We’re really witnessing the rise of fascism in America. … It behooves all of us to get out here.” Walters is attending with a group dubbed Feminists Against Trump.
Joining her is Judith Levine, 64, from Brooklyn. Levine touted a sign saying “Abortion rights is equal to human rights.” “I was one of the people that fought to have abortion decriminalized,” she told me. “We can’t have true freedom if we can’t control our bodies.”
Saturday’s march was born, in part, out of Hillary Clinton’s loss in November. Politically progressive women considered Clinton a champion of women’s rights, and worried about what the Trump administration would bring.
On Friday, Clinton attended Trump’s inauguration wearing white, the color worn by suffragettes who themselves demonstrated in the streets. And this morning Clinton thanked the women marchers, many of whom are attending in her name.
Priscilla reported earlier this morning on the packed Metro cars she saw headed to downtown Washington for the march.
Based on video footage and photos on Twitter, it wasn’t just her route that’s crowded.