History was made Saturday in Seattle as more than 100,000 people marched through the streets to stand up for women's rights. The record protest for the Womxn’s March on Seattle far surpassed previous demonstrations in the city.
The organizers originally thought 50,000 people would show up Saturday to the Womxn’s March on Seattle to demonstrate their opposition to the country’s newly sworn-in president. In the end, it was at least double that, with marchers forming a three-mile-long line in what is believed to be the largest political march in Seattle history.
It was so huge that some participants reached the endpoint at Seattle Center before others were even able to leave Judkins Park, where the trek started.
The crowd far surpassed the roughly 40,000 who showed up for the World Trade Organization protests in 1999, and clogged city streets for most of the day. Estimates of the total turnout ranged from 100,000 to 140,000.
The mood was both exuberant and defiant. Marchers wove together themes of civil rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and human rights.
Many carried hand-lettered signs, some clever, some blunt: “We Shall Overcomb.” “Nasty women unite.” “We are better than this.” “Respect existence or expect resistance.” “Girls just wanna have fun-damental rights.”
Elsewhere, The Associated Press reported, more than 1 million women marched across the world, with those overseas joining in solidarity with U.S. women and standing up for the rights of women in their own countries, and in opposition to the views and ideas voiced by President Trump.
The whole movement started after a retired attorney from Hawaii used Facebook to spread the idea of a march on Washington, D.C., around Inauguration Day.
In Washington state, sister marches took place in Spokane, Wenatchee, Walla Walla, Vancouver, Bellingham and even tiny Twisp, in the Methow Valley.
The Seattle crowd was so huge that it created human gridlock. Marchers trying to get out of Judkins Park, where the event started, had to wait for nearly an hour before they could move forward.
And while it was billed as a silent event, there was also spontaneous singing (“Respect,” by Aretha Franklin), occasional chanting (“Black Lives Matter”) and a wave-style roar, where shouts began at the back of the procession and moved to the front, or did so in reverse.
The crowd was a mix of young and old, female and male, and people of all different races. Some were in strollers, others in wheelchairs. They bused in from Port Townsend, and carpooled from Olympia.
Many said they had never marched before, but some said their activism stretched back to their college days, when they protested the war in Vietnam.
“It’s important to back a democracy by your physical presence,” said Gwen Howard, 78, who came with two friends from Port Townsend. Many others echoed the idea that the bigger the crowd, the more powerful the message to the new administration.
Howard said she had also protested the war in Iraq and taken part in the climate march in New York three years ago. Like many of the marchers, she wore a “pussy hat” she knitted herself — one of the pink caps that have become the symbol of women’s resistance to Trump.
Minerva Humphrie came to the march with her friend Josalyn Conley, and she reeled off a list of reasons why she was there: “He (Trump) opposes women’s rights, human rights, civil rights …”
“He has the greatest sense of entitlement, from a male perspective,” chimed in Conley.
“And that friendship with Putin — how is he even in office?” Humphrie said. “That boggles my mind.”
Humphrie said she thinks some good may come of the march because it’s bringing together people from all races — Native Americans, African Americans, Latinos and whites. Humphrie and Conley are African American.
“Trump has galvanized everybody,” she said.
In November, women voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump by a large margin, roughly 54 to 42 percent.
Jan Monti and her husband, Jim Miller, were volunteering in Judkins Park at the start of the march, putting little green stickers on everyone who walked by. The march’s organizers hoped the dots would help them get an accurate count of participants.
Monti, 69, was in college during the Vietnam War, but she never protested. “The war didn’t feel close,” she said. Trump’s election has ushered in a different feeling for her: “This is our country. This is close.”
Around noon, a pair of bald eagles began circling the crowd near 20th and Jackson streets. People gasped, pointed skyward, and took the birds’ appearance as a sign.
“I’ve lived in Seattle seven years, and I’ve never seen a bald eagle,” said Shauna Adams, who found symbolism in the sight of the birds circling a march against Trump.
Despite the slow pace of the march and the frequent delays, the good mood endured.
“Good thing all these people feel the same way that I do,” one woman said out loud, to no one in particular, and people within earshot laughed.
Even the police seemed to be enjoying the crowd. “Great day — amazing march,” a Seattle police officer shouted as the crowd marched by. Seattle police said they didn’t make a single arrest all day.
As she headed through downtown, marcher Nasrin Rousta, a Mercer Island psychotherapist, reflected on her move to the U.S.
Originally from Iran, Rousta came to the U.S. as a student in 1977 and then sought political asylum because it wasn’t safe to be an educated woman in her own country.
She said she came to the march because she wanted to remind Trump of America’s history of welcoming people of all backgrounds.
“It alarms me that someone can show such disrespect and hostility to whoever is not an American-born white male and still be elected president,” she said.
Many Seattle women also traveled to Washington, D.C., to be part of the main women’s march at the Capitol. They included Melissa Braddock, 52, who started making plans to travel there shortly after election night, when she said she and her friends watched the results of Trump’s presidential win stream in at a bar.
“I couldn’t believe it. We stepped outside to get some air,” she said. “And I said, ‘We’re going to have to go march and get active.’”
Braddock, chief financial officer of Eden Labs,joined a Seattle group with a friend who was making the trip. On her Friday afternoon flight leaving the city, she said roughly 30 people — both men and women — on board were sporting pink hats.
The group arrived to the National Mall on Saturday morning, where the march began, and tried to maneuver through the massive crowd to get close to speakers.
“It was just insane,” Braddock said. “Every single person had a smile on their face.”
Beyond women’s rights, she cited health-care coverage as an issue of her concern under Trump’s administration.
“I loved my country, but I didn’t know how much,” she said. “It’s sinking in what this country means, what it means for our freedoms and our civil rights.”
In Olympia, an estimated 10,000 people gathered at the Capitol campus to march, sing and hear speakers. One woman was pushed along in a wheelchair behind a banner that read “87 yo. I WILL BE HEARD!”
The speakers brought thundering cheers from those gathered, including a Muslim speaker who urged unity.
“As a Muslim, I believe we all come from one God,” said Heather Mary, who does outreach for the Islamic Center of Olympia, adding later: “We are all one.”
At least 1,000 turned out in Yakima.
But the Seattle march was by far the largest.
Ansel Strauss-Reeves, who is 12, said he urged his parents to bring the family up from Olympia for the march. “We didn’t get to vote, but we need to have a say in what’s going to happen to this country,” said Strauss-Reeves, who was wearing a “Dump Trump” button on his jacket.
Mariah Jackson also came up from Olympia, with four other friends.
“Honestly, we’re out here because we’re pissed,” she said. “This administration is working for us, not the other way around.” She and others said they feared a rollback of women’s rights and civil rights.
The Seattle march featured giant puppets made by march organizers and local artists that depicted famous historical figures including Rosa Parks and Helen Keller.
Meridee Kortan, who worked on the Rosa Parks puppet, said organizers hope to build on the momentum of the march to resist a president they see as anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and “obviously anti-women.”
Elly Leaverton attracted a small crowd as she stood on Jackson Street dressed in the historic costume of a suffragette, giving a speech on voting rights to anyone who would listen.
People stopped to take her photo. “I love it!” one said. “Thank you!”
The 43-year-old from Brier, in Snohomish County, said Trump “did not win because of apathy, he won because of poverty — because people had to stand in long lines to vote.”
Leaverton said she’s in favor of doing away with Washington’s caucus system and replacing it with a primary. She also believes people should be given the day off to vote, or be given the option to vote by mail, as Washington voters do.
Seattle resident Nancy Page said it’s the first time she’s ever participated in a protest.
At first she worried it was futile to march in Seattle, an overwhelmingly Democratic city, but she came to believe that if people from enough different walks of life came together, it would make a difference.
“Maybe we are in a bubble, but I don’t think it’s an echo chamber,” she said. “Maybe (the march) is big enough, diverse enough. I don’t feel it’s futile anymore. I feel empowered by it, and how diverse it is.”