WASHINGTON — Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators representing a variety of women’s and civil rights issues flooded the streets and choked the subways of D.C. today as celebrities and lawmakers encouraged protesters to get involved in the political process if they want to counter the Trump administration.
The announcer kicking off the rally before the Women’s March on Washington was Charlie Brockman, who had announced the inaugural parade since 1957 but was replaced by the Trump transition team this year.
“All the women here today are Charlie’s angels,” said Brockman, 89, taking a shot at some empty stands during Friday’s parade: “The crowds here are much larger than the parade… I’ve got a new job and I’m tickled to have that job.”
Actress America Ferrera told the crowd, which stretched along Independence Avenue next to the Capitol, that “a platform of hate and division assumed power yesterday.”
“But the president is not America. His cabinet is not America. Congress is not America,” Ferrera said. “We are America and we are here to stay… we march today for the moral core of this nation against which our new president is waging a war.”
“We will not go from being a nation of immigrants to a nation of ignorance,” said the actress, born in L.A. to Honduran immigrants. “…We are, every single one of us, under attack — our safety and freedoms are on the chopping block.”
Ferrera urged the crowd not to let issues divide them so “we stand a chance at saving the soul of our country.”
Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, warned that the water contamination crisis in Flint, Mich., could now happen all over the country. “If this new Congress and this new administration get their way, we can see thousands of communities suffer the same fate,” she predicted.
Gloria Steinem lauded the large turnout, noting “sometimes we must put our bodies where our beliefs are.”
“A Twitter finger must not become a trigger finger,” the feminist activist said of President Trump. She cited a letter written to former President Obama at the end of November by a trio of psychiatry professors expressing concern about the mental stability of Trump and calling for “a full medical and neuropsychiatric evaluation by an impartial team of investigators”: “His widely reported symptoms of mental instability — including grandiosity, impulsivity, hypersensitivity to slights or criticism, and an apparent inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality — lead us to question his fitness for the immense responsibilities of the office,” they wrote.
Steinem opined that the observations of those psychiatrists — who stressed in the letter that “professional standards do not permit us to venture a diagnosis for a public figure whom we have not evaluated personally” — were “on full display in his inaugural adresss.”
Filmmaker Michael Moore declared to the crowd that “we got through day one; we’re in day two now of the Trump tragedy.”
“Mr. President, we are here to end the Trump carnage,” said Moore, who correctly predicted Trump’s win. He outlined steps for activists to take, including social media engagement, joining activist organizations, and running for government or party office. “I’m shy; I only went on two dates in high school,” he said. “If I can do this, you can do this.”
Van Jones, Obama’s former green jobs director whose Dream Corps nonprofit has started a “Love Army” to combat “the despair and divisiveness gaining momentum in our communities,” said he felt “like something beautiful was dying” when Obama flew off in a helicopter after the inauguration.
“You have to be better conservatives than this,” Jones chided the right. “Real conservatives love the Constitution.” He described Trump as “a president who seems to be an authoritarian … committed to a kleptocracy.”
“Conservatives, you’ve got to do better than this… we love you enough to tell you that.”
Jones also chided the left. “We’ve got to be better liberals and better progressives. I’m tired of hearing us say ‘love trumps hate’ but sometimes sound more hateful than Trump,” he said, telling the crowd not to put down red state voters as dumb. “Just because someone made a bad vote doesn’t make them a bad person… we’re going to fight against bigotry, but we’re going to fight for their justice and dignity as well.”
He noted that the left needs to be ready to accept “coal miners thrown under the bus by Trump” and “all those Rust Belt workers who he’s about to mess over.”
Democratic women lawmakers, many wearing pink including the pink knit hats with cat ears dubbed “pussy hats,” packed onto the stage at one point, with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) reiterating that women need to run for office. “If we had 51 percent women in Congress, do you really think we’d be debating access to contraception?” she said.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who wore a studded black leather jacket that she called her “don’t eff with me” jacket, highlighted a sign being held in the crowd: “Women are the wall and Trump will pay.”
“I didn’t give up — literally — parts of my body to have the Constitution trampled on,” said Duckworth, who lost both of her legs as an Army helicopter pilot in Iraq.
Others speaking to the women’s march, which included many male protesters and even one dressed as Abraham Lincoln, included singer Alicia Keys, actress Scarlett Johansson and Muhammad Ali’s daughter Maryum Ali. Comedian Amy Schumer came to the march dressed in an astronaut suit.
Organizers had to re-route the march from the rally site at the last minute after homeland security officials determined that the crowd was too large to take the original route toward the White House. About 200,000 marchers were expected to attend, but the crowd size was estimated at some 500,000. Metro lines were choked with riders, with lengthy delays at outlying stations in the Beltway; Washington Metropolitan Area Transit tweeted pleas to marchers to hang out around D.C. after the event to not overwhelm lines on the way back.
More than 597,000 people came through the Metro on Saturday as of 4 p.m., WMATA said, which surpassed 2013 and 2017 inauguration days. At the rally, people were even sitting on the roofs of porta-potties.
— Greg Hogben (@MyDaughtersArmy) January 22, 2017
As marchers prepared to head from the rally location on Independence Avenue up toward Constitution Avenue and over to the Washington Monument, Madonna took to the stage to bid “welcome to the revolution of love, to the rebellion, to our refusal as women to accept this new age of tyranny where not just women are in danger but all marginalized people.”
“It took this moment of darkness to wake us the f–k up,” the singer said. “…Today marks the beginning of our story; the revolution starts here, the fight for the right to be free to be who we are, to be equal — let’s march together through this darkness.”
“To our detractors that insist that this march will never add up to anything: f–k you,” Madonna added before singing her 1989 hit “Express Yourself.”
The D.C. march was supplemented by “sister marches” across the country and world. The White House did not comment on the protests.
Organizers said marches in Boston, Chicago and Denver drew crowds over 200,000 apiece, while the Los Angeles march drew 750,000 and the New York City event pulled in 600,000. Seattle’s march had some 130,000 protesters, said Women’s March organizers, and there were about 100,000 in Portland and Madison, Wisc.
University of Connecticut professor Jeremy Pressman mapped estimates from protests in 233 U.S. cities and came up with a low estimate of 3,332,065 total marchers across the country and a high estimate of 4,272,715. Crowd estimates were unavailable for many foreign locations where marches occurred, but known locations ranged from 100,000 in London to 30 in Antarctica.
— ABC News (@ABC) January 21, 2017