Before the sun rose on Saturday over a Washington gripped by gridlock, pink hats and poster-board signs already were emerging around the world.
From Beijing to Buenos Aires, from Denver to Dallas, from California to the Carolinas, hundreds of thousands of activists once again took to the streets to protest the policies and presidency of Donald Trump. The number of participants might not have eclipsed the millions who marched in cities a year ago, but the “resistance” still brought out swarms of people from Los Angeles to Philadelphia.
Saturday’s march made clear how a movement that began as a protest has evolved. A year of the Trump presidency, coupled with the galvanizing experience of the #MeToo moment, has made activists eager to leave a mark on the country’s political system. As a result, a key component of Saturday’s demonstrations was an effort to harness the enthusiasm behind the Women’s March and translate that into political sway at the polls this fall.
“Last year it was about hope. This year it’s about strength,” said Diane Costello, 67, a retired teacher and member of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a group that advocates for gun violence prevention, said as she marched through Manhattan.
“2018 is going to be a great year to get more progressive people elected,” said Julie Biel-Claussen, 59, executive director of the McHenry County Housing Authority in northwest Illinois, as she marched through a chilly Chicago morning.
Outside Washington, one of the biggest demonstrations on Saturday unfolded in New York.
Hundreds of protesters streamed out of the subway stop at Broadway and West 72nd Street, heading toward the march route along Central Park West. The atmosphere was festive, with people chanting, “This us what democracy looks like!” Hawkers sold knitted pink hats, #MeToo buttons and American flags.
Actress and comedian Whoopi Goldberg gave a short but fiery speech thanking the thousands of people who came out for the march. “I love the fact that I can’t see the end of this,” she said as she gestured toward the crowd stretching before her. “We started a movement that’s still moving. We are here as women to say we’re not going to take it any more.”
Deanna Santana, 60, of Hamden, Conn., a veteran and retired professional in children services, said she came to this year’s march to voice her support for immigrants and the right to health care.
“My family is half Mexican and half Puerto Rican, and I recently lost my husband to cancer,” she said. “I’m doing this for him.”
Trump, who was celebrating the first anniversary of his inauguration on Saturday, weighed in on the marches from the White House. “Beautiful weather all over our great country, a perfect day for all Women to March,” he tweeted. “Get out there now to celebrate the historic milestones and unprecedented economic success and wealth creation that has taken place over the last 12 months. Lowest female unemployment in 18 years!”
Nearby, demonstrators gathered near the Lincoln Memorial and along the still-frozen reflecting pool on the National Mall. The group heard from speakers such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who told the crowd, “It is women who are holding our democracy together in these dangerous times.”
Proud of all the marchers standing boldly this weekend. We are strong and we will win. #PowerToThePolls #WomensMarch2018— Linda Sarsour (@lsarsour) January 20, 2018
Women have spent the past year campaigning for change, calling out abuse, and reclaiming power. Our country needs more of this. And, to all the women reading this post, it needs more of you in government. #WomensMarch2018 pic.twitter.com/fE6XcY2ys4— Melinda French Gates (@melindagates) January 20, 2018
Although many protesters were returning for a second year, many came for the first time — some so young they had not been able to vote in the 2016 election.
Madeleine Greenberg, an 18-year-old from Newport Beach, Calif., went to the march in New York with her three roommates from New York University. She couldn’t make it last year because she had high school exams. She said as excited as she was to join the march, she’s just as excited to vote in November.
“It’s really important for people to recognize that every election matters, not just the big presidential election,” Greenberg said. “I wasn’t able to vote in the last election, so this will be the first election I’ll be able to vote.”
Across the river in Morristown, N.J., a line of charter tour buses unloaded marchers behind the town hall, an overflow crowd that Police Chief Peter Demnitz estimated had reached 15,000 by 11:30 a.m., along with some counterprotesters.
Organizers say they chose Morristown because of its Revolutionary War history as the winter encampment site of George Washington’s army. Last year’s event in Trenton drew an estimated 7,500.
“If one man can build a wall, one girl can destroy it ALL!” read a large handmade sign being carried by a young girl making her way down South Street.
Megan Hertlein, a 13-year-old middle school student from Vernon, N.J., took an hour-long train ride with her mother, Patti Hertlein, 44, a paralegal. Megan had stayed up late making a poster with a line borrowed from the musical “Hamilton”: “Tell your [sister] that she’s gotta rise up!”
Nearby, Michael Shapiro, a 55-year-old resident of Belleville, N.J., was waving a “Make America Great Again” sign as several marchers tried to hold their signs in front of his. “I’m here to support President Trump,” Shapiro said.
By late morning, crowds in Chicago stretched from Jackson Street two blocks south to Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park, and clogged Congress Parkway to Michigan Avenue. Organizers claimed to have eclipsed the 250,000 marchers from last year, despite only 40,000 signing up online.
For some young people, the march was less about politics and more about the normalization of sexual harassment and the mistreatment of women during the Trump presidency.
Jane Bailey, a 15-year-old from the suburb of Indian Head Park, was marching because she said her rights have been threatened. She and her friends said since Trump was elected, boys at their high school have become more emboldened to bully girls online. “It really made me angry and want to fight,” she said.
The majority of signs protesters carried through Chicago focused on the Republican Party and Trump. Among them: “Ikea has better cabinets,” “The GOP is responsible for making America hate again” and “GOP, OMG, WTF.”
At last year’s march, Dana Hundrieser, 56, of Chicago was not allowed to carry a sign that displayed her political views because she was a federal employee. But she ended her 34-year career in April, when she retired from the Internal Revenue Service. She said Trump’s election led to her decision to walk away from a job where she prosecuted large corporate tax cases.
“I thought, ‘It’s not going to be better,’ ” she said. Her sign thanked late-night comedians — including Jimmy Kimmel and Trevor Noah — because she said they have provided “huge relief” since last January.
“I never would have guessed my mental health depended on these people,” she said.
Diana Crandall in New York and Pamela Babcock in New Jersey contributed to this report.