Thousands of demonstrators taking part in the Women’s March on Washington gathered Saturday on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to rally for women’s rights, urge women to run for public office and call on citizens to fully engage on issues from sexual assault and racial equality to immigrant protections and gun violence.
The Washington event is one of many such protests taking place in hundreds of cities across the nation.
Crowds were upbeat and blinking into the the bright sunny day. Many said they feel encouraged by recent Democratic electoral wins in Alabama and Virginia and the huge increase in social activism that the year brought.
Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr., D-Virginia, among the first speakers, drew cheers when he criticized Republican congressional leaders and President Donald Trump. “I am sure that if Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and the president were women we would not be in the middle of a government shutdown right now,” Beyer said.
“Please run! Run smart! Run hard!” he urged the crowd.
The rally, which took place despite the government shutdown that began at midnight, is intended to rekindle the activism and civic participation ignited by the massive Women’s March on Washington held on the day after Trump’s inauguration. Organizers hope to build on efforts that have pushed women’s issues to the forefront during the politically chaotic year since Trump took office.
“Last year was a rallying cry for a lot of women who wanted their voices to be heard,” said Emily Patton, a spokesperson for the Women’s March. “This year, we really want to show support for women who are running for office and to encourage more women, women of color and those in the LGBT community, to run for office, to register to vote, to be more civically engaged.”
Patton said the event would show support for those who are providing voter information and challenging voter suppression in Washington area communities.
“Every politician and legislator needs to be put on notice,” she said. “We are not going away. We are demanding women’s equality, women’s rights, immigration rights, and we are going to continue to uphold the values that we hold dearly.”
Judy Glaven, 57, brought the same “Be Brave Choose Love” poster that she marched with at last year’s march. It is covered with tape because she has taken it to so many demonstrations over the past year.
“Last year I was in shock and depressed. Now I feel determined. I am going to keep working at this,” the molecular cell biologist from Mount Pleasant, Maryland, said. She said that since last year’s march she has met with senators and representatives, organized her neighbors and gone to dozens of protests. “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t do something,” she said.
Victor Udoewa was changing his daughter’s diaper, while his wife got ready to sing with her social justice a capella choir for the assembling marchers. He said the last year has been revealing more than anything, and in some positive ways. “People thought we were further along with sexism and racism than we are,” he said.
Washington was the focus of last year’s Women’s March, with hundreds of thousands of protesters filling the streets of the capital. This year, however, the largest marches are taking place elsewhere, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Charlotte and New York.
One of the biggest events will take place Sunday in Las Vegas, where a concerted effort is being made to push for voter registration. Democrats are eyeing the U.S. Senate race in swing state Nevada, where Republican incumbent Dean Heller is considered vulnerable and first-term Rep. Jacky Rosen, a Democrat, is a leading challenger. The Las Vegas rally will also focus on gun violence and sexual assault and is expected to include speeches by Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, actress Marisa Tomei and Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia
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