By Sarah Toy
BU News Service
Washington — Hundreds of thousands of people descended upon Washington on Saturday to rally and march down the National Mall to protest President Donald Trump’s political agenda and advocate for women’s rights.
Crowds thronged streets near the National Mall, forming a sea of knitted pink “pussy hats” that protesters donned as a form of protest against Trump’s infamous comment about women. Protesters waved signs of all colors, shapes and sizes supporting various causes, from Black Lives Matter, to LGBTQ rights, and reproductive rights. Many of the placards took aim at the new president, urging resistance and rejecting his agenda. Some signs simply read: Be Kind.
“My body, my choice,” squealed seven-year-old Cleo Houston as she sat on her father’s shoulders. She and her parents, Lisa Folda and Kerr Houston, from Baltimore, Maryland, all wore t-shirts reading: “I am embarrassed by how my president makes me feel.”
Adrian Villalobos, who uses a wheelchair, said he was there to represent people with disabilities and to fight the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
“People with disabilities are the most marginalized,” he said. “The repeal of ACA would have a significant effect on our community.”
Saturday’s march, which began as a suggestion on the Facebook group Pantsuit Nation, drew interest in all 50 states and many cities all around the world, including London, Paris, and Tokyo. According to the Women’s March web site, more than 2.5 million people were expected to march in solidarity world-wide. In Chicago, so many protesters showed up that organizers decided to cancel the march and extend the preceding rally instead.
Related: Women’s Marches Around the World
Despite the march’s message of solidarity, early on initial organizers encountered divisions among potential participants when it came to issues of race, such as whether minorities were being sufficiently represented. The event’s early organizers were nearly all white and they dubbed the march the “Million Woman March,” which drew criticism on social media for echoing the names of marches aimed at African American empowerment. Subsequently, the name was changed to the “Women’s March on Washington” and several minority women with significant protest-organizing experience were named as national co-chairs.
Although there were pockets of women and men of color in the throngs, the march appeared to be largely white. “I think if women of color were told earlier, it would have had a bigger and better impact,” said Theresa Booth, a black neonatologist from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The march began with a rally on the National Mall, where celebrities such as America Ferrera and well-known feminist Gloria Steinem gave rousing speeches. Hillary Clinton did not attend, but she tweeted her support.
Thanks for standing, speaking & marching for our values @womensmarch. Important as ever. I truly believe we’re always Stronger Together.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) January 21, 2017
“This is an outpouring of energy and true democracy like I have never seen in my very long life,” said Steinem.
The crowd included many men, some carrying “I’m With Her” signs. “Men can and should be feminists,” said Jeremy Collins, a martial artist who traveled from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to participate in the Women’s March.
Saturday’s peaceful march was a contrast to the protests the day before, during which police arrested over 200 people for setting fire to trash cans and vandalizing cars and property. City officials estimated 500,000 people attended the Women’s March, more than double the initial predictions. Earlier reports that it would be canceled due to crowd volume were erroneous.
Landry Harlan of BU News Service contributed reporting.