In Washington, D.C., organizers expect between 6,000 and 10,000 people to gather on Freedom Plaza for a midday rally focused on voting rights and calling on Congress to suspend the Supreme Court confirmation process, according to a permit issued by the National Park Service on Wednesday. After the rally, participants will march to the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Capitol.
“Women are going to decide this election,” said Rachel O’Leary Carmona, executive director of the Women’s March. “We are fired up. We are ready to take action. This is a preview of what you’re going to see on November 3rd.”
The march will take place days before Senate Republicans hold their first vote to confirm Barrett to replace liberal leader and feminist icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her nomination is expected to be approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is scheduled to vote on Oct. 22. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters that the full Senate will begin debate on the nominee on Oct. 23.
Saturday’s Women’s March in D.C. is expected to be one of at least 415 marches and events taking place in person and virtually in cities across the country, O’Leary Carmona said. That’s significantly fewer marches than the first Women’s March in 2017, when millions of people flooded the streets in about 700 marches across the country in a historic demonstration protesting Trump’s inauguration.
But O’Leary Carmona said organizers aim to reach the same number of marches as they did in 2018, when about 500 events were planned nationwide. Among the events planned for Saturday are golf-cart processions, car caravans and a march that will begin at Ginsburg’s college dorm at Cornell University.
Unlike during past years’ marches in the nation’s capital, Women’s March leaders are hoping for a relatively smaller crowd in the District because of social distancing concerns. They are discouraging participants from traveling to D.C. from states that are on the self-quarantine list and are not involved in organizing any buses from other cities. Instead, they encourage supporters to attend local marches or to get involved with its “text-a-thon” efforts, O’Leary Carmona said.
About 2,800 people have indicated on Facebook that they will attend the march in Washington, and more than 11,700 have said they are interested. LED screens will be placed around the area to encourage mask-wearing and social distancing, according to the group’s permit.
Saturday’s rally in Freedom Plaza will feature speakers from the Women’s March organization, the National Women’s Law Center, Planned Parenthood Votes, Black Lives Matter D.C., and a number of other left-leaning feminist organizations. But it will only last about 35 minutes, unlike some of the long rallies of the first few Women’s March events, O’Leary Carmona said. “This is all about the marchers,” she said.
After the rally and march to the Supreme Court, a smaller crowd of about 1,000 people will continue on and march to the Mall for a text-a-thon event to urge women across the country to vote, according to the group’s permit. Organizers and volunteers have already texted 3.5 million women and aim to send 5 million texts in a single day on Saturday, focusing on low-propensity and lower-frequency voters, especially in the 18-to-25 age range, O’Leary Carmona said.
At the same time, a counterprotest organized by a conservative women’s organization will also be taking place at the Supreme Court. An “I’m With Her” rally in support of Barrett and organized by the Independent Women’s Forum is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday to send the message that the Women’s March participants “do not speak for all women.”
Carrie Lukas, president of the Independent Women’s Forum, described the Women’s March as a “radical, leftist” organization that is more in line with the views of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) than with moderate Democratic women. She pointed to the group’s support of efforts to defund the police as evidence.
“This has never been about women,” said Lukas. “They don’t want women to gain power unless they are women who are going to advance their agenda.”
Similar counterprotests have taken place amid previous Women’s Marches, but the confirmation of Barrett — seen as an icon among conservative women — is giving new meaning to this year’s rally.
Organizers of the Women’s March said its base is unified in opposition to the Supreme Court nomination despite the fact that she’s a woman.
“I think our marchers understand that this would not be a nominee who would stick up for them and their lives,” said Caitlin Breedlove, deputy executive director of organizational advancement.
Breedlove said she often receives questions about the organization’s stances that some march participants do not agree with, such as its support for the movement to defund the police.
“The women we work with, whether they align exactly around that frame or not, really understand that we need new systems of public health and public safety that work for everyone that are not violent,” she said. “We see it absolutely as our work to have that conversation.”
Ahead of the march, D.C. police will close streets to traffic around Freedom Plaza from about 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Roads will be closed to traffic down 14th Street NW from Constitution Avenue to F Street NW, and down 13th Street NW from Pennsylvania Avenue to F Street NW.
E Street NW will be closed between 14th Street and 12th Street NW, as will Pennsylvania Avenue NW between 15th Street and 12th Street NW.
Parking will also be suspended in those areas, as well as along Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to 3rd Street NW, on Constitution Avenue NW from 3rd Street to Louisiana Avenue NW, on 3rd Street NW from C Street to Independence Avenue SW, on 4th Street NW from Pennsylvania Avenue to Independence Avenue SW, on 6th Street NW from Pennsylvania Avenue to Constitution Avenue NW, and on 7th Street NW from Pennsylvania Avenue to Independence Avenue.