By ANN MONTAGUE and MICHAEL SCHREIBER
Jan. 21 laid the foundations for a powerful movement for women’s rights. The Women’s Marches, which took place in Washington, D.C., in over 600 sister U.S. towns and cities, and in many more cities around the world, were an unprecedented expression of the determination of women and men to struggle against any governmental attempts to roll back those rights.
The inauguration of the misogynist Donald Trump, whose presidential administration along with Congress threatens to cut reproductive health care and other services for women, gave a strong impetus for many marchers to join the protests.
“What we are seeing is undeniable!” affirmed the TV news. Maria Theresa Kumar of MSNBC told viewers, “I heard every language. I heard about abortion and equal rights. I heard about LGBTQ rights.” Official estimates came rolling in, and with each new city that was announced, everyone was amazed. The projections on crowd size that rally organizers had put forward only a day earlier had been exceeded in almost every case.
By evening, it became apparent that we had witnessed the largest protest in U.S. history. From 3,600,000 to 4,577,00 marched and rallied in the United States on Jan. 21, according to Jeremy Pressman, from the University of Connecticut, and Erica Chenoweth, from the University of Denver.
At the same time, over a quarter of a million people rallied in other countries—from Sweden to South Africa to Australia. Over 100,000 filled the streets around London’s Trafalgar Square. In Paris, thousands rallied near the Eiffel Tower, carrying posters that read, “We have our eyes on you Mr. Trump” and “With our sisters in Washington.”
The official count for the march and rally in Washington, D.C., was 500,000, while some estimated that far more than 600,000 had participated. Actress America Ferrera began the rally by stating, “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.”
Gloria Steinem told the crowd, “This is a day that will change us forever because we are together. Each of us, individually and collectively, will never be the same again.” She looked out at a sea of people on the National Mall. Thousands wore pink knitted “pussy caps,” which were seen as a retort to Trump’s crude remark about grabbing women’s genitals.
A Socialist Action reporter who was in Washington points out, “The rally was overwhelmingly made up of people who had never been on a protest demonstration before. From the podium, they heard an incredible range of commentary from people with long experience in the Black, prison, LGBTQ, and other liberation movements, and from the unions. Despite the fact that most of the solutions that were proposed did not go beyond what is acceptable to the Democratic Party, people still heard an advanced analysis from many movements. The message was that people do not intend to go back to the old racist, sexist America.”
A great many demonstrators in Washington, as in other cities, carried colorful and clever hand-lettered signs. Slogans included, “A woman’s place is in the revolution!” “Tweet women with respect!” and “Girls just want to have FUN-damental rights!” Many signs contained anti-racist slogans and expressed solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement against police killings and violence. Climate change was another issue that many marchers protested on their signs.
In New York City, the mayor’s office estimated 400,000 marchers, and Women’s March organizers estimated 600,000. Fifth Avenue was so clogged that people had to move at a snail’s pace, and the march continued late into the night. Los Angeles organizers put their number of marchers at 750,000.
A Socialist Action reporter in Chicago states, “The Chicago Sun Times says 250,000 marched, estimated from aerial photographs. Organizers cancelled the march after collaboration with the police, as its size seemed to overwhelm them.”
Seattle police estimated 130,000. About 175,000 gathered on Boston Common, where Tanisha Sullivan, head of the Boston NAACP, called on marchers to draw courage from the women who have marched in protests in decades and centuries before. “Despair, my sisters, has no place here,” she said. “Today, my sisters, we march through our disappointment to the promise of freedom. We march through our fear in search of racial and gender equality. We march through great uncertainty in pursuit of justice for all.”
Other cities were amazed to see massive crowds fill their streets—including 200,000 in Denver, 100,00 in Portland, Ore., 60,000 to 100,000 in Oakland, Calif., and 75,000 to 100,000 in Madison, Wis. In St Paul, Minn., police estimated 90,000 to 100,000—five times the number that had been expected and at least twice the size of any other demonstration that had ever been held in Minnesota.
Other cities saw smaller, but still huge, numbers of marchers. The mayor’s office in Philadelphia reported that over 50,000 marched there, including a raucous contingent of 1000 LGBTQ persons from the national Creating Change Conference, which was meeting in the city. In addition, thousands of Philadelphians joined the national march in Washington, D.C.
Over 50,000 marched in the rain in San Francisco and 25,000 in San Jose, and 5000 braved a heavy snow in Boise, Idaho. About 10,000 protested in Kansas City and in Hartford, Conn., and 15,000 to 20,000 marched in Montpelier, Vt.
The Tucson police said that over 15,000 marched there. Phoenix saw 36,000, and Flagstaff had 1200. There were high numbers of protesters in the South, where Atlanta had 60,000, Raleigh 17,000, Houston 20,000, Louisville 5000, and Memphis 900.
A number of cities and towns in Canada hosted women’s marches on Jan. 21, including 60,000 in Toronto, 15,000 in Vancouver, 10,000 in Ottawa, and 5000 in Montreal.
Photos: Gretchen Marino / Socialist Action (Philadelphia) and Marty Goodman / Socialist Action (New York City).