(Click on audio icon above to hear Ashley Judd in the Washington D.C. rally.)
By Preeti Singh and Belen Smole
Millions of people took to the streets of America and in cities around the world on January 21 to participate in what was billed as a Women’s March, one that delivered a broad message of protest against a brand new president.
The largest demonstration took place in Washington D.C., with organizers estimating that almost half a million people attended. Six hundred sister marches took place across the country—inluding events in Los Angeles, Denver, Atlanta, Boston, and Seattle, as well as around the globe, in Paris, Barcelona, London, and dozens of other cities.
In New York, President Trump’s hometown, tens of thousands of residents and others from the nearby tristate area came out to show solidarity for what they called American values, and to give a voice to their displeasure at the new version of America being promoted. The organizers estimate that more than 200,000 people participated in the march in New York City; the mayor’s office put the number at 400,000.
Although women were clearly the majority participants, the march also drew families, seniors, teenagers, and young boys and girls, and even some dogs. They all marched for immigrant, Muslim, and women’s rights, as well as healthcare and environmental issues, among others.
In the main foyer of Grand Central Station, people joined up with their groups as they disembarked from their trains. Families with young children and grandparents, friends, colleagues, and neighborhood groups marched together. Commuters came from Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Westchester, and Massachusetts. Many held banners and placards that voiced their concerns:
Gay and reproductive rights, education and immigration, fairness, civility, respect, harmony, and togetherness. The signs also protested against what some see as an unhealthy Trump-Putin relationship, and against some of the rhetoric that President Trump unleashed to win the election.
“ I don’t like the direction this country is going in.” said Lisa Copeland, a Scarsdale resident and mother of three young boys, who took the 9:43 a.m. train to Grand Central Station for the march. “Individual threats are on the rise and I want to register my protest.”
A group of seven women traveled from the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health at Berkshire, Massachusetts. They had been up since 4:30 am, left at 6 a.m. and arrived in the city just a little past 10 a.m. A core value of feminism, according to them, was respecting the world, and they hoped the march would be the beginning of something more positive.
“I am here because I am a lesbian. I am here because I am a Jew,” said Aruni Nan Futuronsky, a senior life coach at the Kripalu centre. “ I want equality for everyone.”
Erica Paskowski, 30, from Connecticut echoed the same thoughts. “Trump and his administration are very anti-LGBT and they think people like me shouldn’t be allowed to have equal protection under the law,” said Paskowski. “They want to take away my rights just because of who I am and who I love.”
Sandi Rinders and Tiffany Orman, 33 and 34, traveled to the city from Hastings-on-Hudson to march because they said they feared for the deterioration of human rights in a broader sense. “We’ll go back to a place where women don’t matter and that’s just not allowed,” explained Rinders.
By 11 a.m., hundreds of marchers filled up the roads leading up to the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations on the 1st Avenue between 47th and 48th streets, where the march was scheduled to begin. Roads were cordoned off and by noon, Second Avenue was closed to vehicular traffic. Bands played music, flags and buttons were on sale, newsletters on fascism and women’s rights and stickers of ‘NO to Trump and Pence’ were distributed. Caucasians, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and South Asians marched, and conversations in Spanish, Russian, Arabic, English, French, and German, to name a few, added to the diversity of colors, costumes and banners. Every few minutes the crowd would respond loudly to a slogan someone shouted.
Joe Delvicario, a retired maintenance contractor and his wife Barat had traveled from New Milford, Connecticut to be part of the march. “This new president of ours and the cabinet he has made got me off the couch.” said Delvicario. “I intend to use my time well.”
Many Mexicans, like Malugua Acuja del Toro, 55, also took part. “President Trump has been specially targeting the Mexican people, attacking us, calling us drug dealers and rapists. So I’m here to protest because we are no drug dealers, no rapists,” she said.
Elizabeth Evenskal and Kathryn Reklis traveled with a group of more than 100 people from other Queens neighborhoods, who had responded to their Facebook message for the march. “So many different norms are being broken, and some of our neighbors and friends are in the groups that will be disenfranchised.” said Evenskal. “Instead of complaining, we wanted to teach our kids that they can do something.”
Rebecca Goldman was part of a large contingent from Connecticut holding up banners featuring President Trump’s orange hair with slogans like ‘Pull the rug out’ and ‘Hairesy’ and pink and black foam handsigns of ‘Pussy Power’ and ‘Puuurrrsue Freedom for All’. Goldman had been a member of the Hillary Clinton campaign in the swing state of Colorado. “ I was exposed to a lot of hatred. It is scary to see people having this space to air that much anger. The only way to fight that hate is to come out and support people with love and honor.”
Watching the crowd were three Ukrainian students wearing flower headbands. “ We are here to protest against Trump befriending Putin,” said Alexandra Harhaj. “He has illegally occupied our country.”
James Noroma, a high school student from the Democracy Prep Charter School on 134th Street was at the march with his friends. “The new generation has to stand up and advocate for change,” said Noroma. “ We have to fight for change. for women. and it is in our power.”
While the march was expected to finish in front of the Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, it instead ended on Madison and 57th Street, where police cordoned off the street.
As people began to make their way back to Grand Central or Penn Station to head home, there was a sense of a day well spent. “Regardless of whether the new administration was watching or considered it important,” said Swati Shashank from Westchester who came to the march with her friends and two teenage daughters. “These voices cannot be ignored.”