Politics & Government

The Women’s March on Washington isn’t just about Trump anymore

Mother and daughter going to DC during inauguration

Amy and Harper Williams will participate in Women's March on Washington. Star-Telegram/Joyce Marshall
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Amy and Harper Williams will participate in Women's March on Washington. Star-Telegram/Joyce Marshall

The day after Donald Trump is inaugurated as president, an estimated 200,000 people from across the country will flood the capital for a mass demonstration billed as the Women’s March on Washington.

Some will be standing up for what are traditionally labeled women’s issues, such as equal pay and paid family leave. Many say they will be marching just to feel heard, and to express their fear that a range of liberal causes could be endangered under the Trump administration.

But many organizers say the march is not just an anti-Trump protest. It’s as much a rallying cry FOR all those people and issues on the other side as it against him, they say.

“We don’t consider this a protest. It’s a positive movement,” said Elizabeth O’Gorek, 38, who co-chairs the local logistics committee in Washington. “All of these causes – environmental concerns, immigration, Black Lives Matter – those are all women’s issues.”

Margie Storch, 61, said she was alarmed at the rhetoric Trump used on the campaign trail and some of the policies he proposed. But the longtime civil rights activist said she wasn’t making the seven-hour bus ride from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Washington to protest him.

“Donald Trump is our president,” she said. “I feel like we need to continue to communicate with him and our representatives in Congress and just let them know what we want. I want to show up and speak out for women’s rights, human rights, civil rights, health care rights – all the things that I believe in.”

Indeed, to organizers, it’s a lot about believing.

“I haven’t felt hope since the election, and I’m feeling like I have my voice back now,” said Emma Collum, a 32-year-old lawyer from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who said she’d woken up on Nov. 9 “feeling a sense of loss.”

As soon as I heard about the march I was inclined to do something.

Elizabeth O’Gorek, 38, co-chair of the Local Logistics Committee for the Women’s March in Washington

“I needed to take some kind of movement forward instead of wallowing in depression,” she said.

When she came across a small group of women who planned to march in Washington as she scrolled through Facebook, she contacted them offering her legal services.

Two months later, she is the lead organizer for 20,000 people from Florida who are coming to Washington “on planes, trains and automobiles.” She knows of at least 50 chartered buses that are making the 12- to 16-hour trip from her state, many of them driving straight back after the march without staying the night.

“It’s not a pleasure cruise, but these women are so activated and so excited,” Collum said. “Even my stepfather is coming with us, because he says he regrets that he didn’t march against Vietnam.”

The event’s policy platform covers a broad range of issues, including racial profiling, the environment, abortion and LGBTQ rights. Its website lists 177 partners including Planned Parenthood, the Human Rights Campaign, the NAACP and Voto Latino.

Washington gets ready for back-to-back crowds

For the nation’s capital, it means getting ready for two massive, back-to-back events.

The D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency is planning for 800,000 to 900,000 people to attend the swearing-in ceremony and inaugural parade.

During President Barack Obama’s first inauguration, in 2009, more than 10,000 buses brought in 500,000 people, according to news reports of the time.

Calling itself the “Gathering for Justice” on the application, the women’s march applied for a permit for 200,000 people with the National Park Service, according to NPS spokesman Michael Litterst. The application says the purpose of the demonstration is “to come together in solidarity to express to the new administration and Congress that women’s rights are human rights and our power cannot be ignored.”

As of Friday, more than 186,000 people had marked that they were going to the event, according to the march’s Facebook page, and 253,000 people said they were “interested.” Many celebrities have signed up to join the demonstration as well, including Katy Perry, America Ferrera, Scarlett Johansson and Chelsea Handler.

‘All these issues are women’s issues’

It’s called the women’s march because it is being led by women, not because it’s limited to certain issues. said Hayne Beattie-Gray, 43, a stay-at-home mother in Charleston, South Carolina.

After the election, she said, her 12-year-old daughter asked her tearfully, “Does Donald Trump believe in climate change yet?”

I haven’t felt hope since the election, and I’m feeling like I have my voice back now. It’s touching me in ways I wouldn’t have expected.

Emma Collum, 32, Women’s March organizer for Florida

As soon as Beattie-Gray heard about the demonstration she booked tickets for them both, and became the lead organizer for her state. More than 3,000 South Carolinians are heading to Washington, many on 23 chartered buses from different cities.

While her daughter will march for climate issues, Beattie-Gray said she had focused on racial justice.

It was a shock to realize that “Caucasian women had voted Trump into office,” she said. When she started organizing the South Carolina group, she decided they had to break out of the “conversation bubbles.”

“I went out and reached out to women of color who were badasses,” she said, talking about bringing together women who were leaders in their communities. “I intentionally built the South Carolina team diverse, because I did not want to give up one mission for another. All these issues are women’s issues.”

Trump’s election was a wake-up call for many women like herself, Beattie-Gray said.

“We thought, ‘OK, we have our first black president,’ and maybe we were lulled into a bit of a complacency,” she said. “Maybe we were feeling that we had evolved beyond a post-racial world, a world of gender equality.”

After Jan. 21: ‘March On’

Organizers hope the momentum will keep going after Jan. 21.

There are parallel events planned in all 50 states on inauguration weekend. There is even a sister march in London, in solidarity with what organizers call a “grass-roots movement of women to assert the positive values that the politics of fear denies.”

Democratic groups are hoping to harness that energy as well. EMILY’s List, the largest women’s organization in Democratic politics, is holding a large-scale candidate training for 500 women interested in running for office the day after the march.

The South Carolina group has already planned “March On” meetings to keep women engaged after the they return from Washington.

“I’m excited for the energy of the 21st, but I’m really excited about what’s happening in South Carolina when this wraps up,” Beattie-Gray said. “This election has woken up a lot of women. It’s like a re-emergence of feminism, getting people engaged in their communities, getting women running for office.”

William Douglas contributed to this report.

Vera Bergengruen: 202-383-6036, @verambergen