Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of downtown Los Angeles and across the nation Saturday, as the second annual Women’s March looked to convert anger at President Donald Trump’s policies into victories in this year’s elections.
The coordinated rallies in L.A., Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York, Santa Ana, Palm Springs and other cities also aimed to repeat the success of last year’s demonstrations, where an estimated 3 to 4 million took to the streets to protest Trump’s inauguration.
Organizers of the L.A. event predicted at least 200,000 this year, but Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti Tweeted after the event “600,000 strong,” while the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department put the crowd at 300,000. Garcetti told the crowd at City Hall the official estimate was 500,000 people, which he said would make it the largest march in the country. Last year’s L.A. march was also the largest (organizers said about 750,000 people attended in 2017, although fire officials estimated the crowd at about 350,000).
The marchers in Pershing Square left around 10 a.m. headed for City Hall, but thousands had already gathered at the endpoint by then, and at 10:15 a.m. there was a steady stream of humanity all through the route, which was roughly seven-tenths of a mile long.
Many of the event’s early speakers did not directly address Trump’s policies but rather the MeToo movement that has resulted in dozens of famous and powerful men accused of sexual assault or sexual harassment, after The New York Times and The New Yorker in October published details of alleged assaults and harassment by Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein. But due to Trump himself being accused of multiple sexual harassment incidents along with bragging on tape about sexually assaulting women — which helped inspire the first Women’s March — the connection to Trump was apparent.
“Recently I’ve heard a lot of men say that our movement makes them feel uncomfortable and paranoid,” actress Constance Wu from the ABC show “Fresh Off the Boat” told the crowd. “And to that I say, this movement is not about catering our voices to accommodate your comfort. We are not here to suppress our perspectives for your relief. We are here because we deserve our voices and our perspectives too.”
Actresses Natalie Portman, Olivia Munn, and Viola Davis were among the early lineup of speakers who took the stage, with other politicians, activists and celebrities scheduled to speak until 4 p.m.
Portman recalled how her breakout role at age 12 in the 1994 film “The Professional” led to an uncomfortable focus being put on her sexuality, including receiving a “fan mail” letter that described a rape fantasy, film reviewers discussing her breast size and a radio station doing a public countdown to her 18th birthday when an adult could legally have sex with her.
As a result of the attention, Portman said that through the rest of her adolescence she consciously dressed conservatively, did not take roles that involved kissing and stressed how bookish and serious she was during media interviews.
“I understood even as a 13-year-old, that if I were to express myself sexually, I would be made to feel unsafe. Men would feel entitled to discuss and objectify my body to my great discomfort,” Portman said.
Portman also addressed the accusation by some that the MeToo movement was puritanical in nature.
“Let’s declare loud and clear, this is what I want, this is what I need, this is what I desire, this is how you can help me achieve pleasure,” Portman said. “To people of all genders here today, let’s find a place where we can mutually, consensually look out for each other’s pleasure, and allow the vast limitless range of desire to be expressed. Let’s make a revolution of desire.”
As was the case last year, the march saw a wide variety of priorities being advocated, including women’s rights, environmental protection, access to health care, criminal justice reform, voting rights, immigrant and LGBTQ rights.
“Being born and raised in California, the immigration issue is at the top of my list. I love that California is a sanctuary state. And I look forward to keep advocating for those people.” Melanie Hunter, an African American woman from Koreatown, told City News Service while wearing a shirt that read, “Why be racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic when you can just be quiet?”
“What brought me out here today is everything that has been happening in the last year, specifically all of the injustices against people of color and women and especially the Donald Trump presidency, which I consider to be illegitimate,” said a woman named Shannon who lives in Anaheim but preferred not to give her last name. Shannon was holding a sign that read “GOP Greedy Old Perverts.”
Organizers of the WMLA on Facebook said last year’s event was focused on “hear our voice,” but this year is shifting to “hear our vote.” They also said the event is not a protest but a “pro-peace, pro-inclusivity event focused on marginalized voices and the power of voting. Part of our resistance is focusing on how we will use our vote to create the future we want. We respectfully ask that `anti’ sentiments are not the focus of this event.”
Police said there were no active threats against the march before it began, and Officer Rosario Herrera with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Media Relations Section reported no arrests or major incidents related to the march. Two reports were taken alleging battery, she said. No details were available.
Police had advised attendees to leave backpacks and other bulky items at home and minimize the materials that they take with them. The march is the first large public event to be held since the City Council enacted a new set of rules last October on what is allowed at a public event where First Amendment rights are expressed.
Anyone in violation can first receive a warning from a police officer before being cited or arrested, although the event was arrest-free as of 4 p.m.
— City News Service
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