WASHINGTON — Wearing pink, pointy-eared “pussyhats” to mock the new president, hundreds of thousands of women — massed in the nation’s capital and cities around the globe Saturday to send Donald Trump an emphatic message that they won’t let his agenda go unchallenged over the next four years.
Pop diva Madonna made an unannounced stage appearance, joining activist leaders and other celebrities in exhorting the mostly female crowd to resist any oppression from the new administration.
“Welcome to the revolution of love,” she said as she took the stage, wrapping up hours of speeches. “To the rebellion. To our refusal as women to accept this new age of tyranny.”
“We march today for the moral core of this nation, against which our new president is waging a war,” actress America Ferrera told the Washington crowd. “Our dignity, our character, our rights have all been under attack and a platform of hate and division assumed power yesterday. But the president is not America… We are America and we are here to stay.”
When the crowd set out after the rally, heading towards a meeting point close to the Washington Monument, the large numbers forced many marchers to veer from the planned route down Independence Avenue and onto Pennsylvania Avenue, effectively following the same route as the president on Friday after he was sworn in.
As the protesters marched past Trump’s new hotel, a stone’s throw from the White House, many booed and jeered. Bleachers that appeared empty during the inauguration were packed with protesters who watched as other marchers went by.
Despite the huge crowds, there were no visible signs of any disturbances or disruptions.
The women brandished signs with messages such as “Women won’t back down” and “Less fear more love” and decried Trump’s stand on such issues as abortion, health care, diversity and climate change. The message reverberated at demonstrations around the globe, from Paris and Berlin to Sydney and beyond.
There were early signs that the crowds in Washington could top those that gathered for Trump’s inauguration on Friday.
Washington’s Deputy Mayor Kevin Donahue tweeted that organizers of the Women’s March on Washington more than doubled their turnout estimate to 500,000, as crowds began swelling and subways into the city became clogged with participants.
— CNN (@CNN) January 21, 2017
It wasn’t just a Washington phenomenon and it wasn’t just women: More than 600 “sister marches” were planned across the country and around the world, and plenty of men were part of the tableau, too. Organizers estimated 3 million would march worldwide.
As the rally alongside the National Mall took shape, 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.
Outside on the streets of Washington, 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 Washington 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.”
Thanks for standing, speaking & marching for our values @womensmarch. Important as ever. I truly believe we're always Stronger Together.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) January 21, 2017
Thousands of Jewish women and their supporters also joined the march en masse. At a pre-march prayer gathering at the historic Sixth and I Synagogue, sponsored by a number of Jewish social justice and women’s groups, rabbis cited the weekly Torah reading that discussed the rise of “a pharaoh who did not know Joseph,” drawing ties between the reading and Friday’s inauguration.
March organizers said women are “hurting and scared” as the new president takes office and want a greater voice for women in political life.
“In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore,” their mission statement says.
Heading to the march, Rena Wilson, of Charlotte, North Carolina, said she hoped the women could send Trump a message that they were “not going anywhere.”
Joy Rodriguez, of Miami, arrived with her husband, William, and their two daughters, ages 12 and 10.
“I want to make sure their rights are not infringed on in these years coming up,” Joy Rodriguez said.
Retired teacher Linda Lastella, 69, who came from Metuchen, New Jersey, said she had never marched before but felt the need to speak out when “many nations are experiencing this same kind of pullback and hateful, hateful attitudes.”
“It just seemed like we needed to make a very firm stand of where we were,” she said.
Rose Wurm, 64, a retired medical secretary from Bedford, Pennsylvania, boarded a Washington-bound bus in Hagerstown, Maryland, at 7 a.m. carrying two signs: one asking Trump to stop tweeting, and one asking him to fix, not trash, the Obamacare health law.
“There are parts of it that do need change. It’s something new, something unique that’s not going to be perfect right out of the gate,” she said.
Women and other groups were demonstrating across the nation and as far abroad as Myanmar and Australia.
In Sydney, thousands of Australians marched in solidarity in Hyde Park.
One organizer said hatred, bigotry and racism are not only America’s problems.
In Prague, hundreds gathered in Wenceslas Square in freezing weather, waving portraits of Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin and holding banners that read “This is just the beginning,” ”Kindness” and “Love.”
“We are worried about the way some politicians talk, especially during the American elections,” said organizer Johanna Nejedlova.
In Copenhagen, Denmark, march organizer Lesley-Ann Brown said: “Nationalist, racist and misogynistic trends are growing worldwide and threaten the most marginalized groups in our societies including women, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, the LGBT community and people with disabilities.”
In Paris, thousands marched in the Eiffel Tower neighborhood in a joyful atmosphere, singing and carrying posters reading: “We have our eyes on you Mr. Trump” and “With our sisters in Washington.”
At a rally in Concord, New Hampshire, author Jodi Picoult said: “We in New Hampshire are not in the habit of going in reverse.
“We have the backs of those who are less fortunate — who may be struggling for health care, for environmental rights, for racial equality, for a fair wage, for justice.”
Inauguration day marred by violence
On Friday, unrest during the inauguration led police to use pepper spray and stun grenades to prevent the chaos from spilling into Trump’s formal procession and the evening balls.
About a mile from the National Mall, police gave chase to a group of about 100 protesters who smashed the windows of downtown businesses, including a Starbucks, a Bank of America and a McDonald’s, as they denounced capitalism and Trump.
“They began to destroy property, throw objects at people, through windows. A large percentage of this small group was armed with crowbars and hammers,” said the city’s interim police chief, Peter Newsham.
Six officers suffered minor injuries, he said.
The confrontation began an hour before Trump took the oath of office and escalated several hours later as the crowd of protesters swelled to more than 1,000, some wearing gas masks and with arms chained together inside PVC pipe. One said the demonstrators were “bringing in the cavalry.”
When some crossed police lines, taunting, “Put the pigs in the ground,” police charged with batons, pepper spray and stun grenades, which are used to shock and disperse crowds. Booms echoed through the streets about six blocks from where Trump would soon hold his inaugural parade.
As night fell, protesters set a bonfire blocks from the White House and frightened well-dressed Trump supporters as they headed for the inaugural balls. Police briefly ordered ball guests to remain inside their hotel as they worked to contain advancing protesters.