WASHINGTON — A sea of women in pink knit hats filled the nation’s capital Saturday to deliver a message to President Donald Trump that they will challenge any effort to roll back rights for women and other disaffected groups.
“You look great. I wish you could see yourselves,” activist Gloria Steinem told the thousands of women gathered on the National Mall. “It’s like an ocean.”
The Women’s March on Washington was one of many marches held across the country — including in Las Vegas and Reno — that were organized after Trump defeated Hillary Clinton during a harsh campaign that exposed a deep political divide in the nation.
As many as 200,000 people had been expected to take part in the Washington demonstration organized to highlight the need to protect the rights of women and others.
On Saturday morning, Washington city officials said march organizers had more than doubled their turnout estimate to 500,000 as crowds began swelling and subways into the city became clogged with participants.
Before the event, a contingent of about a dozen Nevada demonstrators met outside a subway entrance just a few blocks from the National Mall.
They were joined by U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.
She said she was marching in honor of her mother and grandmothers “and to remind young women and girls the most important lesson they taught me: Never let your gender, age, race or background stand in the way from going after what you want.”
Cortez Masto said she was at the march with other Nevadans to deliver a message.
“We are not going to tolerate anybody coming in and trying to take anything away from us,” she told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We are going to use our voice and stand together united.”
About 200 people from Nevada were expected to find their way to Washington this weekend for the march.
Jean Dunbar, a Las Vegas medical field worker and organizer, said the exact number of participants from Nevada was unknown because many arranged their own means of transportation.
Some of the Nevada participants were recent transplants from Las Vegas, like Cynthia Thomas, an education advocate. For Thomas, the march was a chance to focus on abortion rights.
“It’s 2017 and we are still talking about a woman’s right to her own body,” Thomas said.
Nationally, organizers highlighted issues such as paid family leave, affordable access to abortion and birth control, a higher minimum wage and accountability of police in cases of brutality.
In addition to Steinem, other speakers included activist Angela Davis, Madonna and actress Scarlett Johansson, who spoke about basic women’s health care.
Folk-rock duo Indigo Girls and singer-songwriter Janelle Monae were among those who entertained the crowds.
Monae spoke out against police brutality and highlighted recent victims who have garnered national media attention, including Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old who was found hanged in her Texas jail cell following an encounter with police.
Much of the march, though, focused on the election of Trump, just 24 hours after he was sworn in to serve as the nation’s 45th president.
Trump began the day with the National Prayer Service, an interfaith worship service at Washington’s National Cathedral, and also paid a visit to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
The inaugural event was overshadowed by the hundreds of thousands of women accompanied by husbands, children, family and friends who took part in the peaceful march.
And many of the signs and posters touted by demonstrators contained a play on words on an audio recording of Trump’s crude comments about grabbing women by the genitals. Trump later apologized for the “locker room” talk.
Many women wore pink, cat-eared “pussy hats” that were knitted by other women for the march. A pattern was posted on social media to prompt mass production of the hats, which were prevalent at the march.
Many Nevada marchers wore the hats and carried a banner that read “Women’s March — on Washington — Nevada.”
Dunbar said the march was not just about Trump, but an effort to highlight social injustice and inequities faced by not only women, but also other groups.
“It’s a human rights and women’s rights demonstration,” Dunbar said.
Dunbar said the demonstration was peaceful, but the large number of participants made it difficult to move around and complete the march.
“There were way too many people,” she said.
A woman near the Nevada group collapsed and needed emergency medical treatment, she said. Despite the overwhelming crowds, people moved and opened a path for medical technicians to come and treat the woman.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Dunbar said.
The Nevada group was able to wend its way along the march route to the Washington Monument with few issues, Dunbar said.
“We just stayed together,” she added.
The contingent, however, decided to break up at the monument because of the challenges of moving as a group to the White House.
The march was still a positive experience, she said.
“We are all very motivated,” Dunbar said.
Later Saturday evening, demonstrators were still marching through Washington’s streets to mark their opposition to Trump.
Some chanted, “Welcome to your first day. We will never go away.” Others were chanting about democracy and women’s rights or holding protest signs.
There have been no known arrests related to Saturday’s gathering, according to the District of Columbia’s homeland security director, Christopher Geldart.
That’s in contrast to the events of Friday, when more than 200 people were arrested in Washington while protesting Trump’s inauguration. Those protests were led by self-described anarchists, and federal prosecutors say most of those arrested Friday will be charged with felony rioting.
Geldart said it is safe to say the crowd at the Women’s March exceeded the 500,000 that organizers told city officials to expect. That would make it one of the largest demonstrations in the city’s history.