The idea of a Women’s March on Washington, D.C. started as a simple Facebook post from women who were frustrated with the results of the election. It gathered interest from hundreds of thousands of protesters in mere days. And on Saturday, hordes of protesters took to the Washington Capitol to participate in what was billed as a pro-women’s march, but was clearly a challenge to the Trump agenda.
Women lined up as early as 7 a.m. to get decent viewing spots for the rally that was set to start at 10 a.m. Many of the protesters came with signs decorated with creative slogans protesting various aspects of the Trump agenda. Andrea Beaty, 55, for example, came with her daughter and sisters dressed as suffragettes. Beaty’s sign said, “Party like it’s 1917,” a nod to the year that women were given the right to vote in the state of New York.
“This is the greatest form of American action,” said Beaty, who is from Naperville, IL. “This is what we do. We protest. We demand that you listen to us and be serious.”
By the time the rally started, many protesters had been waiting for hours. Dozens of activists and celebrities took the stage to speak, including Gloria Steinem, the feminist icon; CNN commentator Van Jones; the actresses Ashley Judd and Scarlett Johansson; and the president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards.
“When we elect a possible president we too often go home. We’ve elected an impossible president; we’re never going home,” Steinem said in her speech. While many organizers of the women’s march had made clear that the event was not simply an anti-Trump protest, it was clear that many had come out because they are troubled, as Steinem put it, by the platform on which Trump ran.
By the time singer Alicia Keys took the stage, the march—which was schedule to start at 1:15 pm—was running almost an hour late. Many of the protesters, which had been standing in packed crowds for five hours at that point, grew irritated and began to chant “March! March!”
A few minutes later, an organizer finally announced protesters would indeed march, and crowds started making their way to Pennsylvania Avenue. Protesters chanted, “This is what Democracy looks like!” and “He can’t build a wall, his hands are too small!”
From the beginning, the Women’s March drew criticism from some who were concerned that it was not inclusive enough. Karen Waltuch, one of the main organizers for the New York City chapter of the Women’s March on Washington, said she was disappointed by this divisiveness.
“My personal frustrations have been the naysayers. Even the naysayers who support the movement,” Waltuch said. “We wanted to make sure that anyone supporting this understood that this is not just white women, this is a different time and a different era and we all understand that.”
At a sign-making event held for New York City marchers the week before the event in Washington, D.C., Angelica Falcinelli, 26, of Brooklyn, said she did have some concerns about the over-representation of white women in the march. “The march is coming from a place of privilege,” she acknowledged. “However, really early on they wanted to make this bigger than just white women.”
Zaria Stebbins, 17, came out for the Washington, D.C. march precisely because she is concerned about race relations in the United States. She said she was pleased to see a diverse crowd at the march. “I see a lot of people of different backgrounds, different walks of life, different colors. I think it’s very beautiful. I think it’s inclusive enough, you just have to come down,” she said.
Azra Hyder, 28, of Silver Spring, MD, participated in the women’s march in Washington, D.C., because she is Muslim and particularly concerned about Trump’s targeting of the Muslim community. Hyder found the march to be inclusive of her community as well as many others, and was amazed at the sheer size of the turnout.
“The fact that we didn’t initially march because we filled in the march route was pretty impressive,” she said.
Just as Hyder finished her sentence, a loud cheer rang out across the crowd. The marchers were heading to the White House, where they hoped to send President Trump a message on his first day at work.