An ocean of hand crafted signs and pink knitted hats flooded the capital a day after Donald Trump took office. Officials estimated over 500,000 marchers in Washington, D.C. Thousands of others took to city streets across the country and abroad as a show of solidarity against the new president’s agenda, which has been marked by misogyny and racism.
The protest movement that led to the march began as a Facebook page and included a broad intersection of causes. “What’s important is that racial justice, economic justice, climate justice, reproductive rights, LGBTQIA rights are all on the same plate,” said Linda Sarsour, one of the event’s co-chairs. Sarsour is executive director of the Arab American Association of New York.
For most, these reasons for marching were not separable. “I’m a disabled, lesbian, Native woman,” said Suzanne Kennedy-Howard, who shared the day with her wife and friends. “I’m here because of seventh generation native philosophy—for seven generations into the future.”
These will be major women’s issues for the new administration, and at Saturday’s march in Washington, D.C., people voiced their particular passion.
1. Health care and reproductive rights
Ongoing attacks on access to health care and reproductive rights remain a high priority for women as Trump begins his term. Planned Parenthood saw a 900 percent increase in women seeking IUDs since the election, its president Cecile Richards told CNN.
Atop the new administration’s agenda is repealing the Affordable Care Act, which could mean the loss of health insurance for 18 million Americans, reported The New York Times. The move could put into jeopardy access to affordable contraception, such as birth control, as well as other health services. Reproductive rights are also under fire, as Trump has said he plans to nominate an anti-abortion judge to the Supreme Court with hopes of overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark case defining a woman’s right to choose. With support from Vice President Mike Pence, who has previously attempted to defund Planned Parenthood and also gave Indiana one of the nation’s strictest anti-abortion laws, there’s reason for women’s health advocates to panic. “We need Planned Parenthood to stick around,” said marcher Dee Ginicola of Chicago.
2. Racial justice
Trump refused to disavow the Klu Klux Klan last year. He has nominated as his attorney general Jeff Sessions, who was denied federal judgeship in 1986 due to accusations of racism.
At the march were Amber Coleman and Monica Gray of the YWCA, an organization with a mission to eliminate racism by empowering women. Coleman points to criminal justice reform, equal economic opportunity, and access to education as just a few of the issues salient for women of color. “It’s refreshing to see how many people are advocating for the rights of all,” said Gray, chief operating officer of YWCA. “Silence is not an option.”
3. Families and education
President Trump’s child care agenda, reportedly influenced by his daughter Ivanka, seeks to reduce the financial costs of parenting, largely through changes to the tax code. The administration plans to allow working parents to deduct child care expenses from their income taxes, according to the Trump-Pence website. However, for low income families who pay little to no income taxes, the benefits could be minimal.
Trump proposes six weeks of paid leave for new mothers—but not fathers or adoptive parents.
The nomination of Betsy DeVos to head the Department of Education also signals for many a threat to public education. Marcher Laura Bridges, a music teacher from Virginia, sees the appointment as disastrous. “I’m marching for my students, who are from all backgrounds,” she said.
4. Equality and respect
If Trump’s proposed Cabinet is any indication, the incoming administration will be mostly men—and mostly white. Elsewhere in government, female representation also lags. Women comprise only about a fifth of Congress.
Though women earn the majority of undergraduate degrees and master’s degrees in the United States, they make up only 8.1 percent of top earners, according to the Center for American Progress. For women of color, this gap is even larger. The president has said that women will “make the same if [they] do as good a job.” However, he has no plans to implement equal pay legislation.
Beyond these representational imbalances of power, many women hold larger concerns about Trump’s blatant misogyny. Marcher Anna Irupano, who works as a sign language interpreter for young children, says she struggles to explain his actions. “When he talks to women politicians—and all people—he is setting the worst example,” she said.
5. Religious freedom and xenophobia
Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and policy proposals, such as creating a Muslim registry and placing a partial ban on entry into the country, have sparked fear within Muslim communities, particularly among women who wear hijabs. Since the election, religious hate crimes have spiked to the highest rates since 9/11.
“I’m here to uphold the Constitution,” said marcher Julie Mair, who came from Maryland with her daughter, Mei-Ying. “I’m scared. Japanese internment camps started with a registry.” The duo knit 13 pink hats, some of which they offered to members of their new march community as they passed by.
6. Gender-based violence
In the U.S., where one in six women are survivors of either rape or attempted rape, Trump’s own past actions paint a grim picture. He has been accused of sexual assault or harassment by at least 15 women. Though the president offers few specifics on how he might approach sexual assault on college campuses, his advisers and fellow Republicans have plans to scale back enforcement of Title IX, according to Inside HigherEd.
“He is normalizing sexual assault, and that’s not okay,” said marcher Karen Kassebaum, who traveled 22 hours overnight to get to Washington, D.C., from Nebraska. “This march is about change, it’s about rights, it’s about purpose.
7. LGBTQIA rights
Pence has repeatedly opposed specific LGBTQAI rights throughout his political career. In a 2006 speech, he said that same-sex couples brought about “societal collapse.” As a congressman, he also co-sponsored a 2003 amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage, voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
The recent removal of any mention of the LGBTQIA community and its allies from the official White House website is not reassuring to many. “I’m mostly here for marriage equality and Queer rights,” said marcher Karissa Kessen. “I’m really concerned about Pence and what his policies might do.”
8. Immigration rights
Women across the nation brace for the effects of the new administration’s immigration policies. What began as anti-immigrant rhetoric on the campaign trail has transformed into a key promise for Trump’s first 100 days in office. Besides his plans to build a wall on the Mexico border, he expects to deport upward of 2 million undocumented immigrants who have past criminal records, ripping families apart in the process. About three-quarters of people migrating to the U.S. each year are women and children, the majority of which attain legal status through family-based visas, according to a report by We Belong Together.
“I care about my immigrant brothers and sisters,” said marcher Vilma Cruz. “Nobody is [originally] from here except for the Native people, and he’s got to get that right.”
9. Gun control
Gun violence disproportionately affects women, and is often the byproduct of domestic disputes. Approximately 4.5 million women have been threatened with a gun by an intimate partner, and nearly a million were shot or shot at, according to a University of Pennsylvania report.
Marcher Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, says her organization is advocating for nationwide background checks for every gun purchased, as well as keeping guns away from domestic abusers. As a mother, Watts also fights to protect children from gun violence. “I started [my group] the day after Sandy Hook—I created a Facebook page,” she said. “I was really heartened when I saw this march starting to form right after Trump’s election in the same way.”
10. Environmental justice
The immediate removal of any mention of climate change from the White House website provided a clear signal of the entrance of President Trump. Scott Pruitt, Trump’s nominee to direct the EPA, made a career out of suing the very agency he is now set to run. Trump’s fossil-fuel friendly agenda would be detrimental to curbing the impacts of climate change, an issue for which women facing disproportionately higher effects, notes marcher A. Tianna Scozzaro, program director of the Sierra Club’s gender, equity, and environment department. After Hurricane Katrina, for example, 80 percent of people left behind in the lower ninth ward were women.
The administration’s disregard for the dangers of pollution, among other things, also propelled marcher Gretchen Dahlkamper to drive down from Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C., with her children. “My 5-year-old has asthma,” she said. “They’re not protecting my family.”