On Donald Trump’s first full day in office, hundreds of thousands of protesters descended on Washington for the Women’s March in a display of popular opposition to the new administration and its policies. Sister marches were held in more than 600 locations Saturday in the U.S. and across the globe in solidarity with the marchers in Washington.
Like the demonstration in the U.S. capital, many of the global protests were sparked by concern about women’s rights, civil rights and environmental issues as Trump begins his term.
Crowd too big to march
Organizers of the Women’s March in Washington had planned for a rally near the U.S. Capitol, to be followed by a march to the White House, more than 2 kilometers away, past many of Washington’s historic sights.
But the crowd turned out to be larger than expected, forcing organizers to reroute the march. Most of the planned march route along Independence Avenue was filled from curb to curb with people, hours before the march was to begin.
Peter Newsham, Washington’s interim police chief, said, “The crowd stretches so far that there’s no room left to march.”
Celebrities, activists speak
Political activists, celebrities and entertainers called for outspoken opposition to Trump’s policies on immigration, the environment and women’s rights. Madonna won huge cheers from the crowd in Washington when she unexpectedly appeared near the end of an hours-long rally near the U.S. Capitol. She led the throng in chants of “we choose love.”
Other celebrities who appeared onstage to cheer on the demonstrators included songwriter Alicia Keyes, actor Scarlett Johansson and R&B artist Maxwell.
Watch: Gloria Steinem Says 'Put Our Bodies Where Our Beliefs Are'
Gloria Steinem, a leader of the women’s movement in the United States for decades, also was among more than 25 speakers in the nation’s capital.
'Rights are what matters'
Republican Martha Ehrmann Conte joined the march because she says Trump does not represent her values or the values of the Republican Party, which she joined 35 years ago.
“(Republicans) only differ in the ‘how’ of achieving many of the same objectives,” she told VOA. “Trump doesn’t represent Republicans. He represents his own interests and those of a minority of backward-looking people who are afraid of losing their entitlement.”
Rashmi Misra made the trip to the capital from New York with her 3-year-old daughter as well as her brother, nephew and husband.
“It does not matter who you are or where you’re from — dignity is what matters. Rights are what matters,” she said. “I just want my daughter to understand that she can’t just think of herself as an individual but think of everybody — think about peace and love.”
Marches across US
A crowd of more than 150,000 in Chicago — seven times as large as had been expected — meant that a planned march was turned into a rally. Another crowd gathered in Los Angeles, and in New York, tens of thousands of people flooded the upscale shopping district along Fifth Avenue, heading toward Trump Tower, the president’s home and base of operations before he moved into the White House Friday.
St. Paul, Minnesota, and Boston were two other cities where crowds of more than 50,000 people were reported.
Tens of thousands of protesters gathered at a rally in Oakland, California.
“I’m here because I’m very concerned about Trump and all the changes he and his cronies say they will do right away,” said Jen Tellier from Alameda, California. “This is threatening to Medicare, Social Security, the environment, education. You name it, I’m worried.”
Marches around globe
Elsewhere, Cape Town, South Africa, participated with a gathering in the city’s Gardens neighborhood for what was billed as the Sister’s March Against Trump.
“There’s no difference between women who are in the U.S. and here,” Rachael Mwikali, who helped organize a march in Nairobi, told the Reuters news service.
In Japan, hundreds of mostly American expatriates marched through Tokyo neighborhoods, chanting slogans and carrying signs advocating love and compassion.
In Australia, thousands of protesters marched past the American consulate in Sydney to challenge what rally organizers called the “hateful rhetoric” of the new U.S. president, accusing Trump of “normalizing sexism and racism.”
An estimated 80,000 people rallied in London at the American embassy and marched to Trafalgar Square.
In Berlin women held posters in front of the Brandenburg Gate in one of seven rallies across Germany.
Protests were held in several other European cities, including Paris, Budapest, Amsterdam and The Hague.
March in Antarctica
In Antarctica, a small group of tourists and scientists marched at one of their landings at Paradise Bay holding signs that said “Penguins for Peace” and “Seals for Science.”
Many of the women marching in Washington and other cities wore knitted pink “pussycat” hats, featuring small cat-like ears, to show their solidarity with the anti-Trump sentiments and make an oblique reference to vulgar comments Trump made years before he entered politics.