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‘Dump Trump’: Protesters flood Washington, other cities

Thousands join women’s marches against Trump

Demonstrators protest on the National Mall in Washington, DC, for the Women’s March on January 21, 2017. Hundreds of thousands of protesters spearheaded by women’s rights groups demonstrated across the US to send a defiant message to US President Donald Trump. / AFP / Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS

WASHINGTON: Women in pink “pussyhats” flooded into Washington by the trainload yesterday for a massive rights march that drew hundreds of thousands in defiance of America’s hardline new president, Donald Trump. Tens of thousands of people also took to the streets of London, Paris and other cities across the world chanting “Dump Trump” in solidarity with US protesters.

Washington’s metro stations overflowed as trains packed to bursting moved cheering, clapping marchers into the city for what was expected to be a record-breaking inauguration-related protest. Michele Phillips, a 45-year-old Canadian from New York State who took US citizenship in 2013, came to make a stand against what she calls Trump’s “platform of hate and bigotry”. “I know that we can do better, we have to fight for the change we want to see,” she told AFP. According to Washington’s deputy mayor Kevin Donahue, organizers have upped their initial turnout estimate from 200,000 to 500,000 people faced with the early morning flood of protesters. The city provides no official crowd counts.

Trump’s defeated rival Hillary Clinton tweeted her support to the crowds massed near Washington’s National Mall, preparing to march on the White House led by celebrity participants including Scarlett Johansson and Michael Moore. “Thanks for standing, speaking & marching for our values, @womensmarch. Important as ever. I truly believe we’re always Stronger Together.”

Women made up the overwhelming majority of the people who emerged whooping and cheering from Washington’s Union Station, arriving on jam-packed trains and buses. Many carried homemade signs. “Keep your tiny hands off me,” said one. “Rise, Love, Resist,” read another. The incoming tide of women in knitted pink hats flushed through a city that the day before had welcomed throngs of Trump supporters in red “Make America Great Again!” caps for the Republican’s swearing-in to a four year term.

For his first full day in the world’s most powerful office, Trump attended a multifaith service at Washington National Cathedral. He was later due to visit the headquarters of the CIA, an agency he feuded with bitterly before taking office. Powered by social media, the “Women’s March on Washington” illustrates the divisions of a country whose incoming leader faces levels of public mistrust unseen in recent decades. He faces resistance dramatized by the show of force by demonstrators with fresh memories of his fat-shaming a former beauty queen, sex assault allegations and a controversial stance on abortion.

Women protestors march in a rally against US President Donald Trump following his inauguration, in Sydney on January
21, 2017.

The knitted “pink pussyhats” they wore were an allusion to his boasts in a leaked videotape of grabbing women’s genitals with impunity. Yesterday’s march comes on the heels of a first day of anti-Trump protests marred by sporadic outbreaks of vandalism, with windows smashed downtown and more than 200 people arrested. Authorities were on alert for any new flare-up of violence – although the stated goals of the women marchers are resolutely peaceful.

Jennifer Behr, a 42-year-old accessory designer, rode a packed train from Baltimore to make her voice heard. “It’s important we assert our majority and we have a large physical presence to show Trump and the Republicans that they cannot railroad our country,” she said. While Trump won 42 percent of the women’s vote, millions who did not vote for him worry that gender rights and other progress on women’s health, contraception and abortion could be chipped away.

Organizers have not specifically used the term “anti-Trump” to describe their efforts, but the message is clear. Bringing together “people of all genders, ages, races, cultures, political affiliations and backgrounds,” they say the protest seeks to secure immigrant rights and access to abortion, among other demands – things which Trump’s critics accuse him of wanting to curb.

Dozens of progressive groups are supporting the event, as well as Amnesty International and Planned Parenthood, the women’s healthcare provider that is a Republican target because of the abortion services it provides. The Women’s March began with a simple Facebook post from Hawaii grandmother and retired lawyer Teresa Shook to about 40 of her friends. Word traveled quickly, and eventually made it to the pro-Clinton Facebook group Pantsuit Nation, which has nearly four million members.

Some 300 sister marches were being held across the country, from New York to Seattle. In London, a largely female crowd, which also had many men and children, packed a Trafalgar Square rally in solidarity with women-led demonstrations throughout the United States. “Our Rights Are Not For Grabs – Neither Are We” were among the banners held aloft, along with “We shall overcomb” and “Make bigotry wrong again”.

Hannah Bryant, a 34-year-old museum worker, brought her four-year-old daughter – both of them wearing the bright pink “pussyhats” worn by US demonstrators. “I’ve been teaching her about equality and prejudice,” she said. “It’s a feeling of solidarity – not in our name,” said Jill Pickering, a 56-year-old American student. “I’m angry – I didn’t vote for Trump.”

Organizers said 100,000 attended the London march, although there was no independent verification as police do not give an estimate. In Paris, at least 2,000 people gathered near the Eiffel Tower, holding up banners that read “liberty, equality, sorority”, in a reference to France’s national motto. “I am here for women and for all minorities because Trump is a threat to all humanity,” said a US national Kendra Wergin, who is in her mid-30s. Andreia Rossi, a 39-year-old Brazilian, told AFP she was taking part “because I am a woman, but also because I want to protest against everything Trump represents.” She added: “It’s very dangerous, he has lied to all those who voted for him, and that can happen in France too.”

In Barcelona, Rome, Amsterdam and Geneva too, protesters were enraged by Trump’s derogatory remarks on women. “We are here for women and for human rights,” one of a large contingent of American expatriate women told SkyTG24 news channel in Rome. “This American says Trump go back to your own planet,” read a placard brandished by a protester.

“We must defend democratic values,” said Karen Olson, who organized the Swiss march, as motorists driving by honked their horns in support. “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty,” read a banner held up by a Barcelona protester. “Make America sane again,” read a banner in Amsterdam. In Budapest, up to 400 people gathered in solidarity with the Washington marchers. “Bridges not walls,” read one of their banners, a reference to Trump’s threat to build a wall separating the United States from Mexico to stop migrants from entering the country – and to have Mexico pay for it.

In Berlin, hundreds rallied in front of the US embassy, chanting pro-migrant slogans in a nation that welcomed nearly a million people fleeing war and poverty in 2015. “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here,” they cried. In Prague, protest organizer Johanna Nejedlova branded Trump’s rhetoric “hateful”. “We want to express our support for values such as democracy, human rights, ecology and women’s rights,” she said.

There were also solidarity marches beyond Europe too, with protests in Johannesburg, South Africa, where marchers held up banners reading “Black lives matter” and “Love trumps hate”. Anti-Trump protests also took place in Australia with several thousand marching in Sydney and Melbourne. And in New Zealand, hundreds joined demonstrations in the capital Wellington as well as in Auckland. – Agencies

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