An estimated half a million people turned out on Saturday for the Women’s March on Washington in the nation’s capital, far exceeding the 250,000 protesters that were expected, according to The Associated Press. The original march route, alongside the National Mall, was so packed that once the march began in the afternoon, organizers were forced to tell protesters to make their own route to the White House by way of alternative streets. In Chicago, the march portion of the protest had to be cancelled altogether as the overflow crowds reached 150,000.
The morning rally that preceded the march featured a star-studded lineup of speakers who took to the stage to urge that protesters come together and stand up against the politics of division promoted by President Donald Trump.
Some highlights from Saturday morning’s speeches included a heartfelt address from actress and activist America Ferrera, who told the crowd “We are under attack, each and every one of us.” She continued “Mr. Trump, we refuse. We reject the demonization of our Muslim brothers and sisters. We demand an end to the systemic murder and incarceration of our black brothers and sisters. We will not give up our right to a safe and legal abortion. We will not ask our LGBT families to go backwards. We will not go from being a nation of immigrants to a nation of ignorance,” Ferrera said. Watch her full speech below.
Ferrera was followed by feminist icon Gloria Steinem, who echoed her calls for solidarity. “Everything that happened before him was a disaster and everything that he would do would be fantastic, the best ever, miracles and all the superlatives,” Steinem told the protesters, many of whom wore pink “pussy power hats.”
“He said he was for the people … I have met the people and you are not them.”
“We have people power we will use it,” she said.
“This is the upside of the downside. This is an outpouring of energy and true democracy that I have never seen in my very long life. It is wide in age, it is deep in diversity and remember the constitution does not begin with ‘I the president’ it begins with ‘we the people’.”
“If you force Muslims to register, we will all register as Muslims,” she added.
“This is a day that will change us forever because we are together,” she said. “When we elect a possible president, we too often go home. We’ve elected an impossible president, we’re never going home. We’re staying together, we’re taking over.”
Later, Michael Moore took the stage with a call for action, urging the crowds to call their Congressional representatives each and every day, starting on Monday, in protest against the nomination of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education.
The march has proven a truly a worldwide phenomenon, with an estimated 600 sister marches taking place in more than 75 countries. The chant “women’s rights are human rights,” coined by Hillary Clinton during an iconic 1995 speech, echoed through marches across the world.
In London, thousands gathered in Trafalgar Square, while marches took place in all corners of the Earth, from Australia to frigid Antarctica.
— Rae Hodge (@RaeHodge) January 21, 2017
Back in Washington, D.C., the stirring speeches continued at the rally. Actress Ashley Judd followed Michael Moore and gave a powerful, beat poetry style speech in which she spoke of being a “nasty woman,” the infamous phrase coined by Donald Trump as an insult to Hillary Clinton during the final presidential debate.
Judd told the crowd, “I am not as nasty as a swastika on a rainbow flag. I feel Hitler in these streets. A moustache traded for a toupee, Nazis renamed, the cabinet electro-conversion therapy the new gas chambers … turning rainbows into suicide notes, I am not as nasty as racism, white supremacy, misogyny, ignorance. I’m nasty as my grandmothers fought to get me into that voting booth,” she went on. “Why is the work of a black woman and a Hispanic woman worth 63 and 54 cents of a privileged white man’s daughter’s dollar?”
Judd took the opportunity to address the pervasiveness of gender inequity in everyday life, referring to the continued taxation of women’s menstrual products while Viagra and anti-hair-thinning drugs, typically seen as men’s products, remain tax free. “Is the bloodstain on my jeans more embarrassing than the thinning of your hair?” she asked.
Then, in a powerful reference to the leaked Access Hollywood tape in which Trump could be heard boasting about forcing himself on women, she declared, “Our pussies ain’t for grabbing. They’re for reminding you that our walls are stronger than America’s ever will. They are for pleasure, they are for birthing new generations … of nasty women.”
Watch Judd’s full speech below.
Retired teacher Linda Lastella, 69 traveled to Washington, D.C, from Metuchen, New Jersey, and said she had felt compelled to speak out since “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 told the AP.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, came to the stage and also made reference to Hillary Clinton who, she reminded the crowd, knew a little something about women’s rights and refusing to give up.
Richards used her speech to warn the protesters that next week Congress would be moving quickly to try and pass restrictions on reproductive access. She urged the demonstrators to call their member of congress and their Senator to say “we will not go back.”
“Reproductive rights are human rights” she said.
“One of us can be dismissed. Two of us can be ignored. But together we are a movement, and we’re unstoppable.”
“For the majority of people in this country, Planned Parenthood is not the problem — we’re the solution.” And, extolling her organization’s 100-year history, she promised, “Our doors will stay open.”
— New York Times Video (@nytvideo) January 21, 2017
Transgender writer and activist Janet Mock was there to call for an “intersectional and inclusive” approach to freedom. In the lead up to the march there was much debate on social media around the issues of race and feminism, as disagreement erupted over whether the protest should be used to address longer-term goals of social and political change, incorporating an intersectional feminist agenda. Some women found this rhetoric divisive.
Mock used her speech to emphasize that “collective liberation and solidarity is difficult work” and work which would have us “struggling together and struggling with one another.” She warned the crowds that just because “we are oppressed does not mean we don’t fall victim to enacting same unconscious policing, shaming and erasing” and urged that divisions should not be allowed to undermine the work of the movement being initiated today.
“Today by being here, it is my commitment to getting us free that keeps me marching. Our approach to freedom may not be identical, but it must be intersectional and inclusive. It must extend beyond ourselves. I know with surpassing certainty that my liberation is linked to the trans Latina yearning for refuge.”
— New York Times Video (@nytvideo) January 21, 2017
Following Cecile Richards, Scarlett Johansson too spoke of the need to protect women’s access to reproductive healthcare, drawing on her own experience of using the services provided by Planned Parenthood.
The actress said that although she did not vote for Trump she wanted to get behind him, but demanded that he first promise to “support all women and our fight for equality in all things, including the fight to be recognized as individuals who now better for ourselves what is right for our bodies, better than any elected official, popular or otherwise.”
The actress spoke of her daughter who she worried might be denied the right to “make choices for her own body” — choices, she pointed out, that Trump’s own daughter Ivanka has been privileged enough to have.
Watch the full speech here:
Singer-songwriter Alicia Keys came to the stage with a defiant message for the Trump administration in her “Girl on Fire” speech. “We will not allow our bodies to be owned and controlled by men in government, or men anywhere for that matter,” she told demonstrators.
“We will continue to rise until our voices are heard, until our planet safety is not deferred, until our bombs stop dropping on other places, until our dollar is the same as a man’s.”
She asked the crowd to join her in chanting “not backing down” before launching into her performance.
You can watch the full clip here:
Dressed in a pussy cat hat that has become synonymous with march, Madonna came to the stage saying, “Welcome to the revolution of love, to the rebellion, to our refusal as women to accept this new era of tyranny, where not just women are in danger, but all marginalized people.”
In a typically fiery address she said she was angered by the election in which “good did not win. “Yes, I am outraged. Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House. But I know this won’t change anything. We cannot fall into despair,” the legendary singer said.
Madonna, whose speech featured several profane moments that were broadcast live by multiple cable networks and internet livestreams, went on to perform a pair of songs, her hit “Express Yourself” and then “Human Nature,” which she dedicated to “DT” and suggested the “D” may well stand for “dick.”
Madonna was a vocal Hillary Clinton supporter during the election and held an impromptu concert in Manhattan the day before voters went to the polls, urging them to vote for the Democratic nominee.
The peaceful protests made a stark contrast to the violent unrest that occurred on Friday when self-described anarchists attempted to disturb the inauguration, prompting police intervention.
Watch her performance below: