Millions return to the streets for the 2018 Women’s March to show solidarity and become a political force.
“Show me what democracy looks like” protesters cried as they marched the streets of their cities on Jan. 20. Across the nation, an estimated 2 million people joined the 2018 Women’s March to champion legislation and policies on various human rights issues, particularly those concerning women.
“This is what democracy looks like,” their fellow marchers chanted back.
According to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, this year approximately 600,000 people marched the streets of L.A. Researchers at the University of Denver and the University of Connecticut estimate that this year’s march had about 1.6 to 2.5 million participants across the nation.
This year’s Women’s March marks the one-year anniversary of last year’s historic march, which went on the record as the largest single-day protest in the United States with an estimated 4 million participants. Held the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the theme of 2017’s Women’s March was “Hear Our Voice.”
Fitness instructor and participant Lorry Ray, 59, attended last year’s march.
“We wanted to use our First Amendment rights for peaceful protest to let the new administration know that we would resist any unjust, negative, divisive, misogynistic, racially motivated, or environmentally detrimental legislation that they wanted to pass,” Ray said.
That day, many vowed to continue to resist and to speak against injustice toward women and marginalized groups. Out of this resolve came the #MeToo movement, in which sexual assault victims were encouraged to tweet the hashtag to get a scope of how large the problem was.
In response to #MeToo and to what is now known as the “Weinstein effect,” where people accuse powerful men of sexual misconduct, Hollywood created the #TimesUp movement. #TimesUp advocates the end of sexual misconduct and discrimination against women in the workplace.
Actor Rhonda Hamberger, 31, protested along with her Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) affiliates.
“It’s important to be an agent for change, whatever your platform,” Hamberger said. “The primary reason we’re marching today is because the wage gap in Hollywood is still an issue. There’s a [history of women being taken] advantage of in this industry, and we’re putting an end to it. Sexual assault, unequal pay – that time is up. It takes strong women standing up and paving the way for other women, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
At the L.A. Women’s March, many Hollywood figures including Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Viola Davis, Rob Reiner and Adam Scott addressed the crowds.
In her speech at the L.A. Women’s March, Viola Davis invoked Civil Rights Movement-era leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, drawing a comparison between between the two movements trying to accomplish social and political change through peaceful protests.
“Written on the Statue of Liberty is: Come. ‘Come you tireless, poor, yearning to breathe free.’ To breathe free. Every single day, your job as an American citizen is not just to fight for your rights. It’s to fight for the right of every individual that is taking a breath, whose heart is pumping and breathing on this earth,” Davis said.
Los Angeles Women’s March Co-director Emiliana Guereca said that the focus of this year’s march is to get people to flock to the polls.
“[Last year the theme] was ‘hear our voice’; now it’s ‘hear our vote’ and ‘power to the polls’, focusing on the power of the vote,” Guereca told CBS Los Angeles.
The Women’s March focuses not only on justice for gender issues, but also racial, economic and civil rights.
“The March is about resisting and not accepting the status quo and the current political atmosphere in Washington,” Ray said. “It’s about supporting those who are underserved and ending poverty. It’s about insuring that we are supporting life from birth until death with social security, healthcare and assistance. It’s about job creation and career development through education and science. It’s about ending sexual harassment and assault.”
Hannah Gertenrich, a sophomore commercial music major, said that these issues broke her heart, because they impact her and people she knows.
“One of the most prevalent crimes on college campuses is sexual violence. Almost every woman I know has faced sexual harassment in some form, whether it’s catcalling, unwanted contact or groping, or assault.” Gertenrich said. “For me, the number of women in the industry that have faced sexual violence from fellow actors or directors is incredibly discouraging, because I would like to go into the music business, and I don’t want to encounter a threat like that.”
Misa Rashid, a freshman biology major, said that as a survivor of sexual assault, the #MeToo movement hit home for her.
“The solidarity of the movement and the march sent extremely powerful messages to me [as a survivor], and gave me the courage to stand up and speak out so [others] know too [that they’re not alone],” Rashid said.
Gertenrich agreed that there was a unifying atmosphere at the march.
“I’m not an incredibly emotional person, but as soon as I got on the street, I started tearing up. I felt an overwhelming sense of unity with the 600,000 other people there. Each person I talked to or observed seemed to have the same kind of irrepressible joy written on their face and on their heart,” Gertenrich said. “So many protests in the past few years have turned to riots and have come from a place of rage. While many people were angry, it was more of a righteous anger that was met by a love for justice and a spirit of empathy.”
Abby Stratton, a sophomore English major, shared her thoughts on the march.
“Common enemies bring people together, and that was very evident, but while the [attitude] everyone had was an “eff you” to some groups, but also a “love you” to so many other groups,” Stratton said.
One of the things that stuck with Gertenrich was a sign she read at the march.
“One of my favorite signs from the march was a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote that said, ‘I have decided to stick with love, hate is too big a burden to bear,’” Gertenrich said. “To me, that embodied the atmosphere and spirit of the march.”
All photos courtesy of Micaela Ricaforte