Women in pink “pussyhats” flooded into Washington by the train-load Saturday for a massive rights march set to draw hundreds of thousands in defiance of America’s hardline new president, Donald Trump.
Metro stations overflowed as trains packed to bursting moved cheering, clapping marchers into the city for what was expected to be a record-breaking inauguration-related protest.
“I want to protect our rights,” declared 72-year-old Trisha Norman, who came all the way from North Carolina to show that “when people are standing together, they will be strong.”
Women made up the overwhelming majority of the people who emerged whooping and cheering from Washington’s Union Station, arriving on jam-packed trains and buses.
Many carried homemade signs. “Keep your tiny hands off me,” said one. “Rise, Love, Resist,” read another.
The incoming tide of women in knitted pink hats flushed through a city that the day before had welcomed throngs of Trump supporters in red “Make America Great Again!” caps for the Republican’s swearing-in to a four year term.
Trump — and his new administration — were feted at balls after an inaugural speech that painted a grim vision of national decline under his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama, punctuated by his vow to stop “this American carnage.”
“A fantastic day and evening in Washington D.C.,” Trump exulted in an early morning tweet, his first full day in the world’s most powerful office.
He had just one public engagement Saturday — a multi-faith service at Washington National Cathedral at 9:30 am (1430 GMT).
Powered by social media, the “Women’s March on Washington” is expected to draw at least 200,000 people, illustrating the divisions of a country whose incoming leader faces levels of public mistrust unseen in recent decades.
Trump’s inaugural speech on Friday set the tone for his presidency: proudly populist, fiercely nationalist and determined to break with Obama’s legacy.
His first act in office — signing an executive order aimed at freezing Obama’s signature health care law, before it is eventually repealed — was a potent gesture in that direction, with more such actions expected to follow on Monday.
But he faces resistance, dramatized by the show of force by largely female demonstrators with fresh memories of his fat-shaming a former beauty queen, sex assault allegations and a controversial stance on abortion.
The knitted “pink pussyhats” they wore were an allusion to his boasts in a leaked videotape of grabbing women’s “pussies” with impunity.
Backed by celebrity participants including Scarlett Johansson and Michael Moore, Saturday’s march comes on the heels of a first day of anti-Trump protests marred by sporadic outbreaks of vandalism, with windows smashed downtown and more than 200 people arrested.
Authorities will be on alert for any new flare-up of violence — although the stated goals of the women marchers are resolutely peaceful.
– ‘What hope looks like’ –
One participant, 37-year-old Jessica Vroman from Sacramento, California, posted a picture of women packing a flight bound for Washington.
“It is FULL of women — all ages, all races — going to the march. We are singing, high-fiving and taking selfies. This what hope looks like people!” she wrote.
While Trump won 42 percent of the women’s vote, millions who did not vote for him worry that gender rights and other progress on women’s health, contraception and abortion could be chipped away.
“The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights,” organizers said in a statement.
They have not specifically used the term “anti-Trump” to describe their efforts, but the message is clear.
Bringing together “people of all genders, ages, races, cultures, political affiliations and backgrounds,” organizers say the protest seeks to secure immigrant rights and access to abortion, among other demands — things which Trump’s critics accuse him of wanting to curb.
Dozens of progressive organizations are supporting the event, as well as Amnesty International and Planned Parenthood, the women’s health care provider that is a Republican target because of the abortion services it provides.
The Women’s March began with a simple Facebook post from Hawaii grandmother and retired lawyer Teresa Shook to about 40 of her friends.
Word traveled quickly, and eventually made it to the pro-Hillary Clinton Facebook group Pantsuit Nation, which has nearly four million members.
Some 300 sister marches are being held across the country, from New York to Boston, Los Angeles and Seattle, as well as cities around the world.
One of the largest was in London, where thousands of women, men and children marched through the city center chanting “dump Trump” and waving banners “Our Rights Are Not Up For Grabs – Neither Are We”.