Women's March in Sacramento draws thousands
In a massive rebuke of President Donald Trump’s stance toward women, immigrants and others, hundreds of thousands of citizens marched in cities worldwide Saturday to demand equal rights, seek solidarity and vent about the outcome of the November election.
Originally organized as a Women’s March on Washington to generate support for women’s rights and not directly challenge the new president, protesters in more than 670 cities worldwide took to the streets chanting slogans and carrying signs denouncing Trump on his first full day in office.
They marched in Paris and Moscow, Miami and Portland, London and Mexico City, seeking to ensure their concerns and voices are heard by the new administration.
The turnout estimates were staggering.
More than 500,000 people showed up on the Capitol Mall in Washington, D.C., swamping the Metro subway stations as they moved in and out of the city. In Chicago, the march portion of the event was canceled over safety concerns after more than 150,000 people showed up and held a rally at Grant Park.
Another 60,000 marched in Oakland, according to the California Highway Patrol. More than 20,000 in Sacramento marched from Southside Park to the west steps of the state Capitol, where they filled the mall and listened to speeches and entertainment through early afternoon.
Thousands filled Sacramento Regional Transit trains, and even though RT added extra cars to accommodate the crowds, some trains passed by stations without stopping because they were full, with some carrying passengers sitting on other riders’ laps.
Carol Dirksen said she and her husband were lucky to squeeze onto a train at the 65th Street station.
“There were people that allowed me to basically step on their toes,” she said.
The turnout in many cities far exceeded expectations: the original estimates for the Washington march had been about 200,000, and 10,000 were expected in Sacramento. Despite the breadth and size of the marches, authorities reported few problems or counter-protesters.
“We have not lost our ability to stand and march together ...” Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg told the crowd at the state Capitol, and declared that the turnout was “the opposite of human carnage,” a reference to Trump’s inaugural speech description of the nation’s cities.
Men, women and children marched together, many wearing bright pink “pussyhats” that have been knitted by volunteers nationwide as a reminder of the audiotape that surfaced during the campaign of Trump using vulgar language in describing his advances toward women.
Themes that brought marchers out ranged from concerns about reproductive rights to the fate of immigrants under the new administration.
In Sacramento, Shama Aleemuddin, a Roseville mother and a Muslim American, came with her 5-year-old daughter and their friends because she felt Trump’s campaign carried a message that “Muslims are a cancer.”
“As a mother, I fear what our children are hearing,” she said, then added, “I have faith in America, I love this country.
“There’s just this energy that is amazing,” Aleemuddin said of the march. “Sometimes we just feel alone, so it’s good to have this companionship.”
Jikara Anderson, 17, of Sacramento, came to the march with her mother and said she believed someone had to stand up to “social attitudes that are leaning more toward intolerance and trying to control people’s bodies.”
“Donald Trump is our president,” she said. “We have to accept him, but we don’t have to accept his behavior.”
In Washington, people who traveled from around the nation on planes, buses and trains, then slept on friends’ sofas or in rented vacation homes, gathered to listen to impassioned speeches from political leaders and celebrities.
Sacramento social worker Tatiana Morfas arrived in Washington on Friday, and said in a telephone interview after the event that she was taken aback by the sheer number of people who showed up.
“It’s really good to see such resistance and see that people won’t let their rights get taken away from them,” said Morfas, who learned of the demonstration shortly after the election and said she wanted to be a part of the “once-in-a-lifetime march.”
Sacramento native Sarah Cornett arrived at 4:30 a.m. after driving from St. Louis, where she is completing a public policy fellowship.
Cornett described a sense of camaraderie, with strangers sharing snacks and helping those who were lost.
“It seemed like it would be a great opportunity to witness a historic gathering,” she said. “It felt powerful to be among so many people today especially after such a tense election.”
California’s newest U.S. senator, Democrat Kamala Harris, urged the crowd to “make today a beginning” and to “buckle in, because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”
“When I look out at this incredible crowd today, I know one thing,” said Harris, who already is being mentioned as a possible Democratic presidential candidate. “Even if you’re not sitting in the White House, even if you’re not a member of the United States Congress, even if you don’t run a big corporate super PAC, you have the power.
“And we the people have the power.”
Not everyone who wanted to get to the main march in Washington was able to attend.
A group of eight people from Canada said they were refused entry into the United States after telling U.S. border agents Thursday that they planned to attend the march.
One Canadian, Joseph Decunha, told The Guardian that he was turned away after border agents asked whether he was “anti- or pro-Trump.”
“It felt like, if we had been pro-Trump, we would have absolutely been allowed entry,” he told The Guardian.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials would not confirm his account, citing privacy laws, but said attending a protest march is not a prohibited activity that would prevent someone from entering the country.
Trump and the White House offered no direct comment on the marches.
The president, who traveled to a prayer service and then a speech at CIA headquarters Saturday, did not offer any comments Saturday on Twitter about the marches, although his motorcade passed by groups of marchers. White House press secretary Sean Spicer did not take questions about the marches, but delivered a stern critique of how the media reported on the turnout for Friday’s inaugural events.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whom Trump defeated in the election and who attended Friday’s inauguration, did not appear at any marches Saturday, but signaled her support in a series of tweets.
“I stand w/ Nora Harren, a 17-year from Boise, ID, & every person marching for our values today. Onward! #WomensMarch” Clinton tweeted Saturday.
Bee staff writer Ed Fletcher, the McClatchy Washington Bureau and wire services contributed to this report.