As many as a half-million women — and men — marched through the nation’s capital Saturday in a massive protest against President Donald Trump on his first full day in office, leaving some to wonder where this sort of energy was when the White House was still up for grabs.
The Women’s March on Washington had planned for a crowd of 200,000, and the unexpected turnout caused some logistical issues. Most notably, organizers had trouble telling the unwieldy legion to begin the two-mile walk from the shadow of the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument.
“We’re marching!” march organizers eventually tweeted at 2:47 p.m., nearly two hours after the march had been scheduled to begin. “Please attempt to clear Constitution Ave and head toward the lawn of the Ellipse.”
Despite the delay, the mood at the march never soured.
“It was massive — total, utter chaos in there,” said Helen Bergstrom, 23, who had come from Boston. “We were on Independence [Avenue] and absolutely could not move. I’m super excited because it was so big. It’s pretty crazy, and I really hope people are actively excited by this.”
Once the march got going, it seemed as if the stream of protesters — wearing pink knitted beanies with cat ears known as “pussyhats” and carrying signs denouncing the new president in vulgar terms — flowing out of mall would never stop.
To some observers, the crowd seemed more excited to protest Mr. Trump than they had been to beat him in the general election.
“Imagine if all of these people marching today had knocked on doors in Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin” former House Republican leadership aide Doug Heye said in a tweet.
Some marchers concurred, saying they hadn’t taken Mr. Trump seriously.
“Everyone was like, ‘Yeah, we don’t like [Democratic presidential nominee] Hillary [Clinton], but she’s going to win,’ and people were pretty apathetic about it,” Ms. Bergstrom said. “I think this is an awakening that people have to realize this is what happens when you stay silent.”
Others said the passion on display at the march was evident during the presidential race.
“You could also say the energy was there during the race, because Hillary won the popular vote,” said D.C. resident Aron, 28, who declined to give her last name.
For her part, Mrs. Clinton didn’t seem envious of the turnout.
“Thanks for standing, speaking & marching for our values @womensmarch,” she tweeted Saturday. “Important as ever. I truly believe we’re always Stronger Together.”
Organizers ratified a statement of principles before the event that could have passed for the Democratic Party platform. It included support for gay rights, free health care and robust environmental regulations.
But the issue most on the minds of marchers on Saturday was abortion.
With a unified Republican government set to defund Planned Parenthood in coming weeks, perhaps it’s no surprise signs depicting pictures of uteruses and containing some variation of “My body, my choice” were among the most popular on the day.
Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America were among the March’s sponsors. Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, addressed the crowd at a rally before the march.
“We’re not going to take this lying down,” Ms. Richards said. “And we will not go back. For the majority of people in this country, Planned Parenthood is not the problem; we’re the solution. We’ve been part of the American country — the fabric of America for 100 years. And my pledge today is: Our doors stay open. Now is the time for us to link arms together.”