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Organizers: Crowd too big to march on White House
Georgetown graduate student Marielle Septien, 27, perched on the shoulders of her partner Dickie Fischer to get a better sense of why she and her friends had remained essentially stuck for 40 minutes. (Moriah Balingit/Washington Post)

D.C.’s top homeland security official says organizers have decided the crowd is too big to conduct a formal march to the White House.

“They are going to tell the crowd they can go to the Ellipse if they want, but they are not doing the normal parade route, there is too many people,” said Christopher Geldart, director of the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency.

Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Kevin Donahue says the decision was not made by the mayor’s office. It was a decision by organizers.

D.C. police said some people had already started marching before the decision was made.

And organizer Tamika D. Mallory went to the microphone after that call was made and asked the crowd, “Are you ready to march?”

At a quarter to 2 p.m., crowds thickened on the Mall near Fourth Street SW but were stuck, with no clear source of the reason for the deadlock. Frustrated attendees began chanting “Let’s march now!” Many cleared out, streaming toward Madison Drive SW rather than following others toward Jefferson Drive SW.

At the corner of Seventh and Constitution, some participants were confused about where to march — and if to march.

Anna Duncan, an Arlington preschool teacher, says she was confused by the route mapped on the Women’s March website.

“They were stopping people at an intersection like, ‘don’t go further,'” she said. “It was not a very well-done site.”

Two other women, Terry Berosseau of Seattle and Ruth Martin of Philadelphia, said they were planning to march regardless of whether or not the official plans had been changed.

Bernadette Hopen, 22, said at Seventh Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW that she frankly doesn’t really care if she’s on the “right” route.

“They gave out the maps and our coordinator from New Jersey made sure we were prepared, but they just weren’t expecting 300,000 more women,” she said. “They’re doing the best they can. I was worried about feeling unsafe but I feel so safe. People are saying thank you to the police. ”

Her mother, Jody Hopen, 54, marched alongside her daughter and a friend from her Hillary campaigning days.

“I don’t really care. Whether we’re in the official march or not,” her friend Lisa Mandelblatt, 52, said.

The Westfield, N.J., trio said they planned to follow the crowd and enjoy the day.

“It’s such a positive group, the popular vote group, and people have been so inclusive and communicative with each other,” Jody said.

Protesters in Chicago had the same issue; the march there was turned into a standing rally because of an unexpectedly large crowd.

Women’s March on Washington

Planning started fewer than three months ago from the home of a grandmother in Hawaii in the wake of the unexpected election results. Now, on President Trump’s first full day in office, the Women’s March on Washington is here — and it’s expected to be massive and the biggest demonstration tied to the Trump inauguration.

Upward of 500,000 women are expected to gather near the Capitol on the intersection of Independence Avenue and Third Street SW this morning. (Here’s a bit more about the origins of the march.)

The march is broadly about a demand for equal rights for women after the Democratic Party’s Hillary Clinton, the first woman nominated for president by a major party, was defeated in the November election. But in recent weeks, the march’s organizers have defined it with a progressively liberal agenda and signed on groups like Planned Parenthood as co-sponsors. The platform calls for ending violence against women, workers’ rights, reproductive rights, environmental justice, immigrant rights and more.

The inclusion of reproductive rights in the platform has angered antiabortion activists, who feel that they too are feminists and this march now excludes. Many antiabortion activists still plan to attend the march to participate and make their stances on abortion clear. (Read more about the debate of whether there is a place for antiabortion women in the Women’s March here.)

The planning of the march highlighted many rifts within the feminist movement. Still, march organizers say this is intended to be a positive, forward looking march. And there will be scores of celebrities to mark the occasion. Janelle Monáe will perform, Scarlett Johansson and Ashley Judd will make appearances. And activists Angela Davis and Michael Moore and D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) will also be speaking. (Find the full list of speakers here.)

And before you head over make sure to read our rundown of all the logistics you need to know.

The rally will run until about 1:15, and after that, the participants will begin marching west to The Ellipse park, just south of the White House.

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