Women's March on Washington: Pink-hatted protesters vow to resist Donald Trump

WASHINGTON - Tens of thousands of women, determined to mount a roaring rejoinder to the inaugural gathering for Donald Trump, poured into Washington Saturday for the Women's March.

Coming from around the country and sometimes sleeping on the couches of people they had never met before, the marchers occupied a swath of terrain around the National Museum of the American Indian. Organizers, who originally sought a permit for a gathering of 200,000, said Saturday they now expect as many as a half million participants - potentially dwarfing Friday's inaugural crowd.

The demonstrators - mostly women, largely white - said they wanted to take the most public possible stand against Trump, a candidate and now president whom they said routinely insults women and the issues they care about. But the gathering also provided therapy for many, the balm of immersing themselves in a like-minded sea of citizens who shared their anxiety and disappointment after Democrat Hillary Clinton's historic bid for the presidency ended in defeat.

Clinton tweeted her gratitude as the rally got under way at 10 a.m., telling them: “Thanks for standing, speaking & marching for our values @womensmarch. Important as ever. I truly believe we're always stronger together.”

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem, 82, who was among the first speakers, looked out over the swelling crowd and exulted, “This is the upside of the downside. This is an outpouring of democracy like I've never seen in my very long life.”

In the hours before the march officially began, participants threatened to choke Metro lines. Inbound trains were packed with pink-hatted protesters, and the transit agency reported parking lots full at several stations by 8:30 a.m.

“You won't get in. We can't move,” said one woman on the phone from an overrun spot near the American Indian Museum. She advised other marchers to seek other spots along the planned route.

Marchers fueled themselves at coffee gatherings around the city. Hundreds filled a ballroom at the Hyatt Regency, where the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism held a service of prayer and pastries.

“Enough already! Let's start walking!” declared 74-year-old Barbara Willenson, who traveled by bus with a group from Milwaukee.

The growing crowd was buoyant, even joyous. Many held up signs - “I Am Very Upset!” and “Love Trumps Hate” and “Bridges Not Walls” - while others took videos of the moment on their cell phones. Every few minutes, a rolling roar swept over them, echoing through the concrete concourse. The throng will get on the move early in the afternoon, ending at the Ellipse adjacent to the Trump White House.

Judith Snyder-Wagner was among them. The 67-year-old said she has sensed a shift in the rural, blue-collar community near Canton, Ohio, where she lives with her wife, Joy. A neighbor mowed a piece of grass along their property line and put up a Trump sign facing their home. Someone recently drove through the neighborhood flying a Confederate flag.

“We've been afraid,” Judith Snyder-Wagner said, her voice quavering. She was limping up the sidewalk on Independence Avenue. She has had both her knee and hip replaced, and she held a cane in one hand and a poster in the other. “We just feel like we're going to lose our civil rights.”

The couple boarded a bus at 1 a.m. Saturday in Ohio and will head home less than 24 hours later. “We needed to feel inspired,” Joy Snyder-Wagner said, looking around at the huge crowd. “And we do.”

Trump's election was the wake up call that progressives needed, said Erin Edlow, 28, the membership director of the Virginia Beach Young Democrats. She was in town with her sister to demonstrate her support for LGBT and immigrant rights.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport,” she said.

The march has turned into the weekend's star-studded event, with celebrities including Janelle Monáe, Scarlett Johansson and Ashley Judd making appearances. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, D, introduced herself as a “chick mayor” and implored the Republican majority in Congress to stop meddling in the District of Columbia's local lawmaking.

Actress America Ferrera declared that “our new president is waging a war” on the values that define the country with “a credo of hate fear and suspicion of one another.”

“It's been a heart-rending time to be both a woman and an immigrant,” said Ferrera, whose parents are from Honduras. “Our dignity, our character, our rights have been under attack.”

“But the president is not America,” she said. “We are America.”

The demonstration's organizers have embraced an imperiled liberal agenda - a sharp contrast to much of what Trump laid out for his presidency. The platform calls for ending violence against women, workers' rights, reproductive rights, environmental justice, immigrant rights and more.

But a group of anti-abortion women also came, beseeching the larger march to recognize their variety of feminism. Whether or not to include the conservative viewpoint sparked controversy in the days before the march. Anti-abortion women said they have been excluded.

Siobhan Rooney, 32, drove from Philadelphia Saturday morning to march for women's rights. For her that includes the rights of their unborn children.

“We are in the same page on so many issues. It's just this one issue,” she said.


A crowd of people on Saturday head to the turnstiles to leave L'Enfant Plaza Metro station, one of the closest to the National Mall. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Fenit Nirappil
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