WASHINGTON – Less than 24 hours after Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, a different kind of movement – some called it resistance – unfolded on the National Mall.
From Capitol Hill down the Mall and for blocks westward along Independence and Constitution Avenues, hundreds of thousands gathered Saturday for the Women’s March on Washington to protest Trump’s inauguration and speak out for women’s rights and other causes they feared were in jeopardy under the new administration.
Friday’s red “Make America Great Again” caps were replaced Saturday by a sea of pink “pussy hats” and “Love Trumps Hate” t-shirts. In place of Friday’s pro-Trump rallying cries, Saturday’s crowd chanted “This is what democracy looks like” and “My body, my choice.”
And although there was a significant protester presence and some violence in Washington Friday, the mood of defiance Saturday was very different — more hopeful, more peaceful and more united.
“I think this is an amazing show of solidarity,” said Amanda Welch, who traveled from Louisa, Virginia, to attend the march. “I protested yesterday, and the crowds from the inauguration were nothing compared to this.”
Although it was difficult to estimate the exact attendance of the event, media reports are indicating that the numbers for Saturday’s crowd were significantly more than those of Trump’s inauguration the day before. Organizers of the march said about 500,000 participated.
There also were some 600 sister marches held in cities across the country and the world, including Boston, Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Berlin, Mexico City, Sydney and Galway, Ireland.
The Washington event, which was organized in response to Trump’s election and featured celebrity speakers such as America Ferrera, Michael Moore and Scarlett Johansson, began with a rally at 10 a.m. outside the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, before the march itself started at 1:15.
Other highlights included a surprise musical performance by Madonna, whose colorful response to Trump’s inaugural address included sharp dig at the 45th president.
“Welcome to the revolution of love, to the rebellion, to our refusal as women to accept this new age of tyranny,” the pop star announced to the crowd. “Where not just women are in danger, but all marginalized people.”
But for many in the thick of the crowd, it was all a blur of bodies, signs and voices.
For blocks along the Mall, participants squeezed together with just inches of space among them, the only horizon in sight marked by the colorful array of signs and posters expressing support for democracy, equality and a wide variety of social issues.
Sumathi Ramaiah Jones and her son Dylan, 17, brought a homemade flag with the message “Love Trumps Hate” painted on the front, which had hung outside their Durham, North Carolina, home throughout the presidential campaign.
Ramaiah Jones, whose ancestors come from India, said she was deeply troubled by the discrimination her family faced when they were volunteering ahead of the election.
“When we were registering voters for both Republicans and Democrats, we got spat upon, told to go back to our own country. I mean, things got very hateful,” she said. “So we’re here with our love sign.”
There were also many nods to pop culture, including tributes to powerful feminist icons such as Star Wars’ Princess Leia, played by the late Carrie Fisher, who was an outspoken advocate for issues including addiction and mental illness.
Other signs took a more negative approach, vilifying Trump in particular with condemning phrases and images. Several made references to Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, depicting the new president getting cozy with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Some had traveled great distances to attend the march.
Zahrah Hill, 25, and Simone Holmes, 32, are both plumbers who traveled with a group of about 40 working women from Chicago to Washington on an overnight bus to be at the march. They said they were “disgusted” with Trump’s treatment of women.
Many who made long trips had particular causes to which they were hoping to bring attention.
Although women’s and gender rights were the overriding themes of the day, participants showed solidarity with a number of progressive issues, from immigration to environmental concerns.
Canadian zoologist and animal rights advocate Anne Innis Dagg traveled with her daughter, Mary, from Toronto to be at the march. Dagg, who conducted pioneering research on giraffes in Africa in the mid-20th century, made the trip as part of a documentary being filmed on her work.
“She was the first biologist in the world to study giraffes in the wild. And she was in Africa studying giraffes before Jane Goodall was doing chimpanzees,” said Joanne Jackson of Free Spirit Films, who is producing the documentary.
“And she was discriminated against in the academic world. She never got full professorship, and was not tenured at her university,” Jackson said.
Both Dagg and her daughter said they were deeply concerned by Trump’s environmental agenda. “We can’t go on like this,” Dagg said.
Added Mary, “We just found out yesterday that he’s basically ignoring the whole concept of climate change. We want to stand up and say, ‘We’re supporting you guys. You’re not alone in this.’ This is a worldwide issue.”
Another issue that drew many to the Washington march was education.
Kate Leaf, 26, a teacher from Boulder, Colorado, said she’s particularly concerned with the ideas of Trump’s pick for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos.
“Our education system is already broken, so I think it’s great to have new ideas out there,” Leaf said. “She’s bringing new ideas, but they sound pretty dangerous.”
(DeVos has drawn wide criticism for her plans to further privatize K-12 schools, which many believe will put lower-income students at greater risk of missing out on educational opportunities.)
Mary Rudeen, an occupational therapist from Minneapolis, Minn., who works with disabled children, said she’s very worried about the impact a Trump administration could have on funding for special education.
Overall, the march was a powerful movement for activism and solidarity in the face of political uncertainty.
“President Trump, I did not vote for you,” said Johansson, speaking to the crowd. “That said, I respect that you are our president-elect (sic) and I want to be able to support you. But first I ask that you support me, support my sister, support my mother.”
The actress continued: “Support the men and women here today that are anxiously awaiting to see how your next moves drastically affect their lives.”