More than 500,000 people participated in the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday, the first full day of Donald Trump‘s presidency.
Their mission? To send a bold message to the new administration — and to the world — that women’s rights are human rights.
The march kicked off shortly after 10 a.m. with an impassioned speech from actress and activist America Ferrera, who explained why she and thousands of others are banding together to stand against the new president.
“It’s been a heartrending time to be both a woman and an immigrant in this country,” she said. “Our dignity, our character, our rights have all been under attack, and a platform of hate and division assumed power yesterday.”
“But the president is not America,” she continued. “His Cabinet is not America. Congress is not America. We are America. And we are here to stay.”
“We march today for our families and our neighbors, for our future, for the causes we claim and for the causes that claim us. We march today for the moral core of this nation, against which our new president is waging a war. He would like us to forget the words, ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,’ and instead, take up a credo of hatred.”
As early as 7 a.m. ET, dozens of men and women were already gathered with signs along the intersection of Washington’s 3rd and C streets, not far from the Capitol. By 7:30 a.m. the march area was packed with people.
Despite the cold, gray weather, the streets were filled with energy and laughter as people took photos and sold pins and shirts. Dozens of volunteers from The Pussyhat Project handed out hundreds of free pink knitted “pussy hats” made by supporters from around the globe.
Marcy, a volunteer from Reston, Virginia, explained of the project, “They said if they can’t be here [at the march], they’re sending hats.”
Alicia Keys revved up the crowd shortly before 2 p.m., leading marchers in a chant of “feet on the ground, not backing down” and singing a few lines from her hit “This Girl Is On Fire.”
Later, Madonna energetically addressed the crowd, exclaiming, “welcome to the revolution of love! To the rebellion. To our refusal as women to accept this new age of tyranny.”
“The revolution starts here,” she also said.
“My question to you today is, Are you ready?” she continued. “I said, Are you ready? Say, Yes, we’re ready! …. Yes, I am angry. Yes, I am outraged. Yes I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House. But I know this won’t change anything. We cannot fall into despair. As the poet W. H. Auden once wrote on the eve of World War II, we must love one another or die. I choose love. Are you with me? Say this with me: We. Choose. Love.”
She then launched into a few bars of her 1988 hit “Express Yourself” as she danced onstage.
Other celebrity speakers and attendees included Amy Schumer, Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Chastain, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ashley Judd, Gloria Steinhem, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Michael Moore.
One crowd of marchers making their way across the Potomac River from Virginia chanted and sang as they walked: “All I want to say is Trump don’t care about us. All I want to say is Trump don’t care about us.”
Other marchers chanted in sing-song: “Hands too small, can’t build a wall.”
They carried hand-made signs with slogans such as: “Climate change is real, you’re the hoax!” and “These boobs were made for marching” and “How many women does it take to crush a Cheeto?”
And, taking off on the campaign logo and slogan of Trump’s presidential rival Hillary Clinton, one demonstrator hoisted a sign that read, “I’m With Her” but showed arrows pointing in every which way at the surrounding marchers.
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The Women’s March on Washington was expected to be a star-studded event, with celebrities like Chelsea Handler, Amy Schumer and Jessica Chastain expected to be in attendance to support to the cause.
Feminist icon Gloria Steinem, calling herself one of “the golden oldies,” told the mass of women — and men —gathered on the National Mall, where inauguration-goers stood 24 hours earlier: “I wish you could see yourselves. It’s like an ocean!”
Steinmen paid tribute to the trailblazer who’s defeat by Trump — and his campaign’s unofficial slogan of “Lock her up!”— inspired Saturday’s marches all over the world. “Hillary Clinton is alive! And definitely not in jail. She who told the world that women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights!”
And Steinem denounced Trump’s policy agenda, his Cabinet and White House appointments, and his shoot-from-the-hip tweets.
“Trump and his handlers have a found a fox for every chicken coop in Washington,” Steinem said. “And a Twitter finger must not become a trigger finger!”
The marchers also have the support of the woman who helped inspire their mission statement with her powerful message from more than 20 years ago: “Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights.”
Clinton took to Twitter on Saturday — one day after she attended his inauguration — to lend her voice to the cause. “Thanks for standing, speaking & marching for our valies @womensmarch,” she wrote. “Important as ever. I truly believe we’re always Stronger Together.”
Elsewhere on Twitter, critics slammed the march and insisted that women in America already have equal rights. Among them was Michael Flynn Jr., the son of Trump’s pick for national security adviser, Gen. Michael Flynn, who tweeted:
Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore also spoke at the march, promising, “We’re going to have a million people here today.”
“Okay. We got through Day One! We’re in Day Two now of the Trump tragedy,” he said. “Who wants to be in my next movie here? I woke up this morning, picked up The Washington Post and the headline read ‘Trump Takes Power.’ I don’t think so! Here’s the power! Here’s the majority of America right here!”
Then he dramatically crumpled up the newspaper and chucked it to the stage floor, adding, for the benefit of environmentalists in the progressive crowd: “I’ll pick that up later. Recycle!”
Actress Ashley Judd later joined Moore on stage, where she recited a poem from 19-year-old spoken word poet Nina Donovan that began: “I am a naaaaasty woman. Not as nasty as a man who looks like he bathes in Cheeto dust.”
- Reporting by CHAR ADAMS and ALEXANDRA ROCKEY FLEMING