Overwhelming turnout for Women's Marches forces change of plans

Staff and wire report
  • Half a million people were in Washington by 9:30 a.m., according to a city official.
  • More than 600 “sister marches” were planned around the world.
  • Organizers say marches are intended to unify diverse communities in effort to protect rights of all.

The day after a man who bragged of grabbing women by the genitals was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, an estimated half million people took to the streets of Washington, D.C., while similar protests took place in cities across the country and around the globe.

Preliminary figures suggest more people have turned out for the Women’s March on Washington Saturday than attended Donald Trump’s inauguration festivities Friday.

As of 11 a.m. Saturday, 275,000 people had taken trips on the city’s subway system, according to The Associated Press. On Inauguration Day, 193,000 trips had been taken as of that time, and the rail system opened an hour earlier that day, at 4 a.m.

A Washington, D.C., city official said the turnout was estimated to be 500,000, or more than double the initial prediction, as of 9:30 a.m.

The massive turnout forced a change of plans, according to AP: With the entire planned route filled with hundreds of thousands of protesters, organizers couldn’t lead a formal march toward the White House.

The news service quoted a District of Columbia official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official isn’t authorized to speak for the march.

While the formal march from the protest stage near the Capitol was cancelled, the crowd was still expected to move toward the Ellipse, an area of the National Mall in front of the White House.

A similar scene unfolded in Chicago, where so many turned out for that city’s Women’s March that the march itself was canceled due to safety concerns. Instead, the rally space and time allotted were both extended to accommodate the estimated 150,000 protesters.

In Philadelphia, thousands of marchers held signs, chanted and sang as they walked slowly down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Organizers called it a demonstration in support of the rights of women and America’s diverse communities following a presidential election in which they say many groups were demonized, The Associated Press reported.

The organizers say the marches are intended to unify the diverse communities in an effort to protect the rights of all.

In Washington, D.C., protesters — women, men and children — showed up early Saturday morning and were taking photographs around the capital before the 10 a.m. pre-march rally.

Arriving protesters were greeted with cheers as they exited the city’s Metro stations.

Collen Murphy and Melissa Clark, both of Princeton, New Jersey, said they were marching because they disagree with Trump.

“I wanted to stand up and say I don’t approve of what he stands for,” Clark said.

“I hope he realizes he doesn’t have a mandate,” Murphy added.

That was a common theme among the marchers, including D.C. resident Aya Matsumoto.

"I don't want them to think because of silence they have a mandate," she said.

Matsumoto was accompanied by New Jersey resident Alexanne Neff, who said she hoped the march would jump start action that will be needed over the next four years.

Along the route, marchers encountered a small group of counter-protesters holding religious signs — “Attention Rebellious Jezebels” — and using a bullhorn to shout at them.

“You women belong in a kitchen,” a man in the group yelled.

The group’s taunts were soon drowned about by marchers chanting, “Love trumps hate.”

The women brandished signs with slogans such as “Women won’t back down” and “Less fear more love” and decried Trump’s stand on such issues as abortion, health care, gay rights, diversity and climate change, according to AP.

Their message reverberated at demonstrations around the globe, from New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles to Paris, Berlin, London, Prague, Sydney and beyond.

More than 600 “sister marches” were planned around the world, and plenty of men were part of the tableau, too. Organizers estimated 3 million people would march worldwide.

As the demonstrators rallied alongside the National Mall, Trump opened his first full day as president by attending a prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral, a tradition for the day after inauguration, and later visited the CIA. As he traveled around town, his motorcade passed large groups of protesters that would have been hard to miss.

Marlita Gogan, who came to Washington from Houston for the inauguration, said police advised her family not to wear their “Make America Great Again Hats” as they walked through crowds of protesters while playing tourist on Saturday.

“I think it’s very oppressive,” she said of the march atmosphere. “They can have their day, but I don’t get it.”

On the streets, feminist leader Gloria Steinem described the worldwide mobilization as “the upside of the downside: This is an outpouring of energy and democracy like I have never seen in my very long life.”

“Sometimes we must put our bodies where our beliefs are,” she told the crowd, labeling Trump an “impossible president.”

Hillary Clinton, who lost to Trump, took to Twitter to thank the participants for “standing, speaking and marching for our values.”

The marches displayed a level of enthusiasm that Clinton herself was largely unable to generate during her campaign against Trump, when she won the popular vote but he outdistanced her in the electoral vote.

At rallies around the world, many participants wore hand-knit “pussyhats” — a message of female empowerment aimed squarely at Trump’s crude boast about grabbing women’s genitals.

They “ain’t for grabbing,” actress Ashley Judd told the Washington crowd.

— The Associated Press and York Dispatch reporter Alyssa Pressler contributed to this report.