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With Sights on 2018 Elections, Women Refocus Message

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of downtown Los Angeles and across the nation this past Saturday, as the second annual Women’s March looked to convert anger at President Donald Trump’s policies into victories in this year’s elections.

The coordinated rallies in L.A., Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York, Santa Ana, Palm Springs and other cities also aimed to repeat the success of last year’s demonstrations, where an estimated 3 to 4 million took to the streets to protest Trump’s inauguration.

As was the case last year, the march saw a wide variety of priorities being advocated, including women’s rights, environmental protection, access to health care, criminal justice reform, voting rights, immigrant and LGBTQ rights.

Saturday’s march took place just hours after the Congress, unable to reach a compromise on the federal budget, plunged the country into a three-day government shutdown, causing uncertainty among federal workers and services dependent of federal revenue.

Democrats had vowed to block approval of a continuing resolution to temporarily fund the government unless it contained a fix for DACA, something members of both parties and the president had professed to want.

Members on both sides of the aisle had been working to negotiate a new DACA deal to protect from deportation undocumented immigrants who were brought to America as children, but the talks stalled and a three-day federal government shut down ensued.

For many at Saturday’s Women’s March, the plight of Dreamers, as the young DACA recipients are often called, was of equal importance to other issues highlighted at the event.


From #MeToo to DACA, Women’s March in Los Angeles Saturday turned attention to having power at the polls in 2018. (Photo by Alejandro JSM Chavez)

“Being born and raised in California, the immigration issue is at the top of my list. I love that California is a sanctuary state. And I look forward to keep advocating for those people.” Melanie Hunter, an African-American woman from Koreatown, told City News Service while wearing a shirt that read, “Why be racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic when you can just be quiet?”

Linda Castaneda Serra of Los Angeles said she is the daughter of immigrants from El Salvador who are now facing deportation following the president’s revoking of TPS for “refugees like her parents.

“I was born here and will turn 18 in May, and you can believe I will vote, and I will get everyone I know to vote,” she said, sharing her views on Facebook and Twitter.

Meanwhile, negotiations continued in Washington D.C. throughout the weekend and a deal, without a fix for DACA, was reached Monday to restart the government and keep it going for three more weeks.

GOP leaders promised they would bring DACA up for a vote, a promise that now appears to be far from a done deal as the president continues to vacillate on what he wants, failing to give clear direction to his party on what a DACA policy should look like.

From the streets to the main stage in front of City Hall, marchers lamented actions coming out of the Trump Administration and society in general.

“What brought me out here today is everything that has been happening in the last year, specifically all of the injustices against people of color and women and especially the Donald Trump presidency, which I consider to be illegitimate,” said a woman named Shannon who lives in Anaheim but preferred not to give her last name. Shannon was holding a sign that read “GOP Greedy Old Perverts.”

Organizers of the WMLA on Facebook said last year’s event was focused on “hear our voice,” but this year is shifting to “hear our vote.” They also said the event is not a protest but a “pro-peace, pro-inclusivity event focused on marginalized voices and the power of voting. Part of our resistance is focusing on how we will use our vote to create the future we want. We respectfully ask that ‘anti’ sentiments are not the focus of this event.”


Organizers had predicted at least 200,000 this year, but Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti Tweeted after the event “600,000 strong,” while the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department put the crowd at 300,000. Garcetti told the crowd at City Hall the official estimate was 500,000 people, which he said would make it the largest march in the country. Last year’s L.A. march was also the largest (organizers said about 750,000 people attended in 2017, although fire officials estimated the crowd at about 350,000). [2]

Many of the event’s early speakers did not directly address Trump’s policies but rather the  MeToo movement that has resulted in dozens of famous and powerful men accused of sexual assault or sexual harassmentFederal shutdown after The New York Times and The New Yorker in October published details of alleged assaults and harassment by Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein. But due to Trump himself being accused of multiple sexual harassment incidents along with bragging on tape about sexually assaulting women — which helped inspire the first Women’s March —  the connection to Trump was apparent.

“Recently I’ve heard a lot of men say that our movement makes them feel uncomfortable and paranoid,” actress Constance Wu from the ABC show “Fresh Off the Boat” told the crowd. “And to that I say, this movement is not about catering our voices to accommodate your comfort. We are not here to suppress our perspectives for your relief. We are here because we deserve our voices and our perspectives too.”

Actresses Natalie Portman, Olivia Munn, and Viola Davis were among the early lineup of speakers who took the stage, with other politicians, activists and celebrities scheduled to speak until 4 p.m.

“Let’s declare loud and clear, this is what I want, this is what I need, this is what I desire …,” Portman said.

Police said there were no active threats against the march before it began, and Officer Rosario Herrera with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Media Relations Section reported no arrests or major incidents related to the march. Two reports were taken alleging battery, she said. No details were

Police had advised attendees to leave backpacks and other bulky items at home and minimize the materials that they take with them. The march is the first large public event to be held since the City Council enacted a new set of rules last October on what is allowed at a public event where First Amendment rights are expressed.

Anyone in violation can first receive a warning from a police officer before being cited or arrested.

EGP Managing Editor Gloria Alvarez contributed to this story.