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Millions around the globe march for women’s rights, opposition to Trump

The day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, an estimated half a million people flooded the nation’s capitol for the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday, Jan. 21. Millions of people around joined the movement in solidarity marches, united in anti-Trump sentiment. Protesters chanted slogans and carried signs calling for action on a wide range of issues, such as racial justice, reproductive rights, health care, indigenous rights, LGBTQ rights, immigration rights, workers’ rights, religious freedom, disability rights, environmental justice and more. At least a dozen Beloit students attended the march in D.C., with dozens in Chicago, Ill. and Madison, Wis.

Marchers followed overflow routes to the capitol in D.C. because more than the projected 200,000 people arrived. The March drew more than three times as many people as the inauguration ceremony the day before, which attracted about 160,000, according to crowd scientists. More than a million rail trips were taken the day of the March, the second-highest day in the Metro’s history after Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009, according to a Metro official. No one was arrested in D.C. at the jubilant march on Saturday, though over 200 protesters were arrested on Friday after people crowded the streets with hectic energy.

Nora Sylvester’20 was among a group of students that received funding from the school to drive a van to D.C. “After the election I couldn’t help but feel useless and hopeless in Beloit. Being in such a small town it felt like it was hard to really DO anything.

However, after I got over my initial disappointment with the election I was left motivated to get to work. I saw the march as a beginning of this. It not only allowed me to be proactive in a cause I am fully dedicated to but it also was inspiration to work to be a better ally in all intersectional causes. I hope the march let our new President know that we will not let hate and bigotry win. As huge and inspiring the march was now I’m ready to go- ready to learn, ready to organize, ready to campaign. I definitely have work to do.

Starting around noon, a long list of speakers and performers addressed the crowd, though only a fraction of the audience could hear clearly. Speakers included Gloria Steinem, Janelle Monae and Madonna, among other celebrities and activists.

Leading up to the march, some activists criticized the organizers of the march for centering the experiences of white women and marginalizing other groups such as women of color and trans and non-binary folks. Responding to this feedback, the mission statement and core values of the march changed to center intersectional feminism and explicitly aim to include “Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, black and brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault.”

While the marches attracted large turnouts with a diverse representation of concerns, many protesters still felt that white feminism dominated the spaces. Fifty-two percent of white women voted for Trump, compared to four percent of Black women and 25 percent of Latina women, according to CNN exit poll data.

The day revealed a global concern for Trump’s presidency and the fate of democracy. Marches also took place in hundreds of cities around the world, including Paris, France; Nairobi, Kenya; Melbourne, Australia; and Bogota, Colombia, among many others.

Many marchers, including men and women, wore pink hats with ears, known as “pussyhats.” The Pussy Hat Project, founded by Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman, provided a knitting pattern for the hats, which they hoped would create “unique creative visual statement which will help activists be heard” according to their website.

Many signs riffed on statements Trump has made in the past few months, such as “Pussy grabs back”, or reclaiming the term “nasty woman.” Some protesters satirized the controversy surrounding Trump’s relationship with Russian president Vladmir Putin. Some chants included “love trumps hate”, “we want a leader, not a creepy tweeter”, “we won’t go away, welcome to your first day”, “show me what democracy looks like — this is what democracy looks like”, among others.

In Chicago, a rally at Grant Park drew larger numbers than expected, and the official march that was planned to follow was cancelled for safety reasons. An estimated 250,000 protesters chose to march through the city streets chanting with signs anyway.

Katherine Jossi’20 was struck by the huge turnout in Chicago and beyond. “I think one of the most powerful parts of the march was the realization that it was global recognition of misogyny and sexism on a scale like we’ve never seen before,” she said. She also appreciated the multigenerational presence. “I remember seeing this kid and his dad flipping off the Trump hotel together and a brother and sister who got the crowd chanting about what democracy looks like, and that was really cool,” she said.

While the concerns expressed were urgent and painful for many, Jossi noted the crowd maintained a sense of humor. “Oh and women are witty as hell — these signs were like nothing I’d seen,” she added.

Kerry Randazzo’20 attended the Chicago march because, as a feminist, “I felt strongly about adding my voice as an ally,” he said. “To me feminism means exercising empathy towards those with different identities than my own and acting on that empathy. As a man my immediate, albeit selfish thoughts and fears regarding the next four years may be different, but it does not take much to recognize that there are people who are more threatened by this situation than myself. Now is the time to add my voice and my actions to this cause.”

In Madison, an estimated 100,000 protesters marched down State street, filling the intersection surrounding the Capitol building. The rally included speeches from political representatives and local community organizers, and performances by youth poets, local punk bands and the Raging Grannies.

Local school teacher and queer youth advocate Abigail Swetz read a moving speech about crying with her students after the election. She “struggled to remain neutral” and decided to speak out against Trump in the classroom rather than be a bystander to his “bullying.”

her experience teaching U.S. history during the election. She “struggled to remain neutral” and decided to speak out against Trump in the classroom rather than be a bystander to his “bullying”. She and her students cried together and the class drafted a social contract to guide discussions about the election.

Organizers of the march hope this can be the start of new momentum in resisting Trump’s administration.

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