On January 21st, an estimated 500,000 people rallied around the world to participate in the Women’s March, a global movement based on the advocation of women’s rights. The protest’s timely execution, just one day after Donald Trump was sworn into office, voiced a strong message of opposition for the new president’s agenda, touching on controversial issues such as abortion, gay rights, global warming, and immigration laws.
“What I saw when we were there was a wide group of people who were peacefully letting their voices be heard…I saw a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm, it was something I hadn’t seen in a long time” said social studies teacher Dale Garland, who went to the march as an observer during a school trip.
Numbers were so large at the march that reasons for protesting varied, and there was no one common message.
“I personally was marching for women’s rights in general, but to name a few specifically: to have the right to abortions (“her body her choice”), Planned Parenthood, as well as against the idea of Trump’s wall between Mexico and the U.S., as well as any racist, homophobic or sexist comments and degrading comments to people with mental or physical illnesses he made” said So. Siena Widen, who attended the march in Denver.
Organizers of the march were based in Washington D.C., where celebrities such as Madonna, America Ferrera, and Scarlett Johansson spoke near the United States Capitol Building. Although about 200,000 were expected to attend the rally in D.C., an estimated 500,000 people were present. Despite the surge in numbers, protests remained largely peaceful.
“In my opinion, it was 100% peaceful, I didn’t see one act of violence, just many people holding up signs, protesting. I thought it was amazing how so many people had pussy hats. When you would look into the crowd, it was basically a sea of pinks and purples and some pretty creative signs” said So. Sasha Kozak, who attended the march in D.C.
However, organizers of the march were met with controversy after banning Students for Life, a pro life student organization, from becoming an official sponsor or marching with the crowds.
The march came under further fire when a 2011 tweet from Linda Sarsour, of the Arab American Association of New York and a celebrated organizer of the march, was uncovered which targeted women’s rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Brigitte Gabriel, an influential leader in America’s anti-Islam lobby.
“Bridgitte Gabriel= Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She’s asking 4 an a$$ whippin’. I wish I could take their vaginas away – they don’t deserve to be women,” read the tweet from Sarsour.
Ali, who was a Muslim in Somalia and subjected to female genital mutilation, fired back in an interview with Fox News. She argued not that the Women’s March wasn’t effective, but that it failed to address more globally pressing issues.
“We have threats, real threats, against women, a real war on women. Our genitals are being cut, a hundred and fourteen million women have been subjected to genital mutilation….this is the kind of thing we need to be marching against, and we’re not marching against it. If we’re really interested in civil rights and the rights of women, we should not go with fake feminists,” said Ali.
Still, those involved regarded the march as a huge success, one which sent a message to political leaders in Washington and around the United States.
“I saw women and men of every size, shape, race and religion. It was peaceful but extremely empowering… as we passed buildings, people would lean out their windows and cheer and hold signs like the ones we all carried. It gave me a sense that we are not alone in this battle; that there are others all across the U.S. wanting the exact same rights as I do” said Widen.