By Susan Chira and Yamiche Alcindor
WASHINGTON – The day after what many had assumed would be the inauguration of the nation’s first female president, hundreds of thousands of women flooded the streets of the capital and cities across the country in organized and at times jubilant rallies against the man who defeated her.
It was the kickoff for what its leaders hoped could be a sustained campaign of protest in a polarized America, riven by an election that raised unsettling questions about U.S. values and barriers to women’s ambitions.
Speakers and marchers voiced their determination to protect a wide array of rights they believe President Donald Trump threatens.
“Thank you for understanding that sometimes we must put our bodies where our beliefs are,” Gloria Steinem, the feminist icon and an honorary co-chair of the march, told people gathered in Washington. “Pressing ‘send’ is not enough.”
To mobilize a progressive movement reeling from Hillary Clinton’s defeat, organizers broadened the platform beyond long-standing women’s issues such as abortion, equal pay and sexual assault to include immigrant rights, police brutality, mass incarceration, voter suppression and environmental protection.
But the march’s origins were in the outrage and despair of many women after an election that put gender in the spotlight. Clinton called out her opponent for boasting of forcing himself on women in a recording that prompted a national conversation about sexual assault.
In a sly allusion to the crude remarks Trump made on the tape, the marchers, men and women alike, old and young, wore pink “pussy hats” sporting cat ears. The mood was festive and buoyant.
Emma Wendt, 13, said she came with a large group of family and schoolmates from Kensington, Maryland, for a simple reason: “being part of history.”
Hundreds of sister marches across the United States and the world drew thousands of protesters.
Yet women did not vote or protest as a bloc. Some 53 percent of white women voted for Trump, and many said his demeaning comments mattered less to them than their belief that he had the independence, temperament and business experience to bring about change.