Women against Trump out in force
HUNDREDS of thousands of people gathered in cities across the US and around the world on Saturday for massive protests a day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, a signal of discontent with America’s new leader that threatened to upstage his first days in office.
The Women’s March on Washington, billed as a response to Trump’s surprise election victory, eclipsed Trump’s swearing-in as the most widely attended political event in the capital this weekend. It was mirrored by large rallies across the US and in international capitals including Berlin, Paris and Ottawa.
In Washington, women and men from around the country choked subway trains and downtown streets from early morning until late afternoon. Chanting demonstrators could be seen and heard from Trump’s motorcade as he arrived back at the White House from a visit to the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
“The revolution starts here,” musician Madonna told the crowd as thousands of marchers began heading toward the White House. “The fight for the right to be free, to be who we are, to be equal. Let’s march together through this darkness.”
Large, co-ordinated protests also took place in Boston, San Francisco and St Louis as Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communication said shortly after 1.30pm local time that the 129-hectare Grant Park, the locus of the protest there, had reached capacity. Smaller cities such as Ketchum, Idaho, and St Paul, Minnesota, also held women’s marches.
More than 500 000 people had used the Washington subway system by 3pm local time, transit authority spokesman Dan Stessel said. Some metro stations were temporarily closed due to crowding and city officials urged people not to overwhelm the system, which normally handles about 200 000 riders on an average weekend day.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer dismissed any attempt to compare the Washington march with Trump’s inaugural a day earlier, saying that there were no official crowd-size estimates from the National Park Service, which has jurisdiction over the National Mall. He ignored shouted follow-up questions on the march after a brief statement to reporters at the White House late in the afternoon.
Trump lost the US popular vote by about 3 million ballots to Democrat Hillary Clinton but won the Electoral College, securing the presidency. The march organisers’ website claimed more than 600 protests worldwide, including hundreds in the US.
Instead of the red “Make America Great Again” regalia popular at the inauguration, many marchers wore pink knitted caps with pointed corners and dubbed “pussyhats”, as a symbol of defiance to the new president.
“I want the message to get to Trump that we are monitoring him, we are paying attention to what’s happening and he will be hearing from us,” said Phyllis Zito, a retiree from Staten Island who was demonstrating in front of Trump Tower in Manhattan on Saturday.
Crowds in Washington stretched almost the entire length of the planned march route, from near the National Museum of the American Indian to the Washington Monument, a distance of almost 1500m.
Even before it began, the Washington demonstration offered a contrast to Trump’s inauguration day, which was marked by smaller crowds than President Barack Obama’s two inaugurations and destructive protests. Trump opened his presidency with a fiery populist address invoking working-class grievances and a bleak portrait of the country.
Simone Machamer rode the Metro to the march on Saturday morning carrying a pink poster that read “IUD: Irritating Ugly Donald”.
The 50-year-old from Sarasota, Florida, said she made the trip to Washington partly because she supports Planned Parenthood and opposes any effort to curb reproductive and abortion rights. “I’m hoping people know what he stood for was wrong,” she said. “His platform was hate, division.”
Democrat presidential candidate loser Hillary Clinton said in a Twitter post that the cause behind the march was as “important as ever”.
“Thanks for standing, speaking & marching for our values @ womensmarch,” she posted on Twitter. “I truly believe we’re always Stronger Together.”
Clinton attended Trump’s inauguration. She wasn’t seen at the protests. Several Democratic members of Congress attended the Washington march. Trump generated a backlash from women’s groups for comments he made during the campaign. He said he believed women who have abortions should face some kind of punishment. He called Clinton a “nasty woman” during a presidential debate.
Madonna smiles before she performs during the Women’s March in Washington on Saturday.