(Micah Augimeri-Lee / Daily Titan)
Update: The number of demonstrators at the LA Women’s March was updated from 500,000 to 750,000 on Jan. 24.
Hundreds of thousands of people attended women’s marches in Los Angeles and Santa Ana last weekend to promote human rights and to show their opposition to newly inaugurated President Donald J. Trump.
L.A. Women’s March
Sardine-packed marchers in Pershing Square began chanting “Start the march” and “Less talk, more walk” after an hour and a half of speakers trying to stall the crowd while police could clear the streets of Hill, Broadway and Grand enough to increase movement.
“We think that we are going to change the name from ‘march’ to ‘stand,’” said Ellen Crafts, one of the event organizers.
Saturday’s Los Angeles Women’s March, which started as a mere Facebook event two months ago, brought 750,000 anti-Trump protesters and human rights activists to the downtown area.
While organizers were happy about the turnout, the boisterous amount of people hindered the cohesion and effectiveness of the overall protest, leaving people wandering the streets of Los Angeles in no particular direction, often stopping to talk, dance or grab some food.
“The streets are blocked off with people. (My friend) stood on the (news) van and took pictures in every direction and it’s a sea of people,” said protester Jenna Miller as she pushed through the crowd. “There’s no marching, that’s why we’re trying to get to a clear street, there’s just no way.”
Once the crowd was finally able to disperse, performance artists, speakers and Beyoncé music were meant to inspire marchers who carried signs with sayings like “Only weak men fear strong women,” “Thanks Trump, you turned me into an activist” and “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.”
“The main focus is really about positive energy. We got the city of Los Angeles to work with us because we are a peaceful demonstration about commitment to human rights. We wanted to have a safe place for people who believe in the importance of that,” Crafts said.
Among the marchers were performance artists who live in Los Angeles and are undocumented: Thalia Ayala from Brazil and Nana Ghana from Africa. The women wore masks and danced around each other with an American flag, ending the performance by spreading the flag across the ground laying on it, grasping hands and kissing each other.
Ghana said the piece was about equality for all people even undocumented individuals. Their dancing was meant to symbolize recognizing each other and coming together.
“Women are the same. It doesn’t matter your color. It doesn’t matter your nationality. We are all f***ing the same. That’s human. That’s powerful. When are we going to wake up to that?” Ayala said.
Also dancing in Pershing Square were women dressed as medieval maidens, one of whom was an L.A. resident holding a sign that said, “We are not maidens who need saving from the dragons, we are the dragons.”
Crafts said that the event was largely made possible by citizens who donated in addition to smaller donations by vendors to put up booths. The sale of Women’s March merchandise also helped to pay for bathrooms, security and permits.
“We will be giving any remainder of the funds to community organizations like Planned Parenthood and the Los Angeles LGBT,” Crafts said.
Although some marchers came out to express their negativity toward the newly inaugurated president, Crafts said that the bigger purpose was to come together and increase discourse between people.
“We need to provide safe spaces for people to have conversation even if you have an opposing view and make sure that we can find a way to figure this out together,” Crafts said.
The march did see some of that discourse between a lone Trump supporter and LA resident James Joseph, who engaged with protesters in the crowd by holding a sign that said “My mom voted #MAGA,” which stands for Make America Great Again.
“I brought this sign out to the Women’s March just to bring a counter opinion, to bring the point out that there are women out there who have voted for Trump for very legitimate reasons and I consider my mom to be very smart and politically savvy,” Joseph said.
Joseph said that although a few people weren’t willing to understand his message, most people appreciated his honesty and he did not experience any violence or disrespect during the march.
“People have been super positive, really amazing and just taking it all in and just really happy to be here, which has made the energy really fantastic,” Crafts said.
Santa Ana March
Downtown Santa Ana also rumbled with noise Saturday morning as nearly 20,000 people marched down the streets in solidarity for human rights, peacefully displaying their anti-Trump signs and chanting sayings like “Women’s rights are humans rights.”
The OC Women’s March brought protesters to Fourth Street to fight against social injustices, waving signs that read “Fight like a girl,” “You can’t comb over sexism,” “Stand With Planned Parenthood” and “IKEA has more qualified cabinets.”
Carolyn Barb, a first-time protester, participated in the march for women’s rights and equality. Particularly concerned with abortion, she wanted the message to be clear that the choice belonged to women because their bodies belonged to themselves.
“Women deserve respect and it’s not okay to have a president who talks about grabbing p***ies and treating women like trash,” Barb said.
March organizer and LGBTQ activist Laura Kanter said that the march as a whole took a little less than two months to organize. Her desire to be involved was a result of living and working in Santa Ana among a community of scared immigrants.
“It was really important for us to show how much Orange County has changed and that we are not the same conservative sinkhole that we used to be,” Kanter said.
Kanter said that if a fraction of the people who came to Saturday’s march showed up at a board of supervisors meeting, they would make rapid change in Orange County.
“Because the reality is that (with) us organized, the power is here and if we just knew that and knew what we could do, it would be pretty amazing,” Kanter said.
Minor tension rose during the first half of the march when a small group of anti-abortionists stood off to the side and held up posters that displayed graphic images of fetuses.
Sonora Ortiz, 22, spent most of their time covering a pro-life sign by standing directly in front of it.
“People shouldn’t be sharing, one, false information and, two, that graphic of information in such a setting as this, especially when it’s not even accurate to what they’re allegedly trying to say,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz marched for women, equal and human rights and said they didn’t think that Trump’s inauguration was reflective of that.
“I don’t think that the popular vote reflects the decisions that have been made and will continue to be made over the next four years,” Ortiz said.
CSUF student Jenny Kim, one of the many faces in the crowd showing her support for gender equality, said this was the biggest march she has ever been to and that she enjoyed seeing so many diverse people in one setting.
“I have a strong belief that in order for society to be whole, you have to have equality,” Kim said.
Kim said she also liked how parents were encouraging their children to march, exposing them to societal issues at a young age.
Attendees finished marching by congregating in a parking lot at the corner of Bush and Third Street for a rally with members of the crowd stepping forward to pledge to fight for all human rights.
“The thing I think that’s really important is that today, the march, is not the end. It’s the beginning,” Kanter said.