(WASHINGTON) — For the third year in a row, women across the world came out in the thousands Saturday to protest the Trump administration and to fight for women’s rights.
But the Women’s March looked different from the first one in 2017.
Back then, it was organized in response to the incoming presidency of Donald Trump and yielded a global movement. On the day after his inauguration, crowds marched across the U.S. in the largest single-day protest in U.S. history.
But this year, the event was mired in controversy over the Women’s March Inc.’s leadership amid accusations of anti-Semitism and racism.
Echoing 2017, this year’s formal main march was held in Washington, D.C., with more than 100 other marches planned for cities around the world.
In Europe, the protests kicked off early Saturday. Hundreds of Londoners took part in a “Women Demand Bread & Roses” protest, rallying in Trafalgar Square. In Berlin, women marched holding signs that said, “My body, my rules.”
In the U.S. Capital, pink “pussy hats” dotted the crowd, and thousands of protesters held up signs protesting Trump while others held signs in support of transgender rights, reproductive rights and gun control. Protestors also invoked Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and signs that read: “Believe survivors.”
One marcher shouted, “Get your tiny hands off my underpants!”
Much of the buildup before the rally, however, focused on the controversy and how organizers were seemingly at odds.
For months, women who had previously participated in the marches exchanged text messages and Facebook posts about whether one of the founders of the movement was anti-Semitic. In the week leading up to the event, the march drew as much attention for controversial comments made by the organizers as the upcoming event itself.
Though the conversation has been ongoing for the past year, the allegations were formalized in an article in the online Jewish magazine Tablet.
On Monday, two of the march’s organizers appeared on “The View,” fueling the controversy. Co-president Tamika Mallory defended her relationship with Louis Farrakhan, the head of the Nation of Islam, who has long fielded charges of anti-Semitism.
“As a leader, as a black leader in a country that is still dealing with some very serious unresolved issues as it relates to the black experience in this country, I go into a lot of difficult spaces,” Mallory said on the show. “Wherever my people are, there that’s where I must also be.”
On Tuesday, the NAACP and the Democratic National Committee pulled out as partners. Planned Parenthood stayed on board.
By Saturday afternoon, Mallory appeared to throw out an all-inclusive olive leaf to the crowd, as she had recently drawn criticism for remarks and affiliations that some called anti-Semitic.
“To all my sisters, I see you. To my Muslim sisters, I see you. To my Latina sisters, I see you. To my Asian sisters, I see you. To my Jewish sisters, I see all of you. I see your pain. And to my black sisters, I SEE YOU!” Mallory said to the thousands of women and supporters gathered on the National Mall.
Speakers from Black Lives Matter, Women of Piscataway, Oglala Lakota Nation Couchiching First Nation, Standing Rock Sioux Nation also took the podium.
In addition, union leaders spoke, at the end of a particularly precarious week for organized workers in the U.S. The National Federation of Federal Employees was represented, as the partial U.S. government shutdown continues into its 29th day.
Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, also spoke, as the teachers’ strike in Los Angeles, the country’s second-largest public school system, threatens to stretch into its second week.
Despite the controversy, thousands of protestors came from around the U.S.
A 5-year-old girl named Isabella came with her family from Chicago to send a message to Trump. She told ABC News that “Donald Trump needs to be kinder.”
Her father, Eddie Navarrete, is a Mexican-American emergency room doctor who came to the U.S. when he was 8 years old. He says today’s important message is, “As a country, we are loving and caring for people, and I think we’ll come through.”
Beyond Washington, D.C., protesters joined rallies in Los Angeles, New York and Iowa, where presidential hopeful New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand kicked off her campaign.
“I will make this very clear. We know there is no room for anti-Semitism anywhere in our movement. We know this. We know that our movement is empowered when all of us lift each other.” Gillibrand said.
In New York City, which is hosting three disparate marches, freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez delivered a unifying message.
“It is so incredibly important to uplift all of our voices. And to make sure the least among us advocated the most. That means we will not be quiet when it comes to the rights of black women. That means we will not be quiet when it comes to the rights of trans women. That means we will not be quiet when it comes to the rights of poor women. And middle-class women. And working-class women. And all women in the United States and in the world,” she said.
“Last year we brought the power to the polls, and this year we need to make sure we translate that power into policy,” Ocasio-Cortez added. “That means we will not let anyone take our rights away. In fact, we will expand them.”
She listed priorities including the Equal Rights Amendment, equal pay for women workers, and paid parental leave.
In Texas, women took to the streets in temperatures that dipped into the 30s. Sandra Parker, a 59-year old retired air traffic controller, headed to Denton for her third Women’s March. As a child of government workers with many family members still in public service, the stalemate in Washington is cause enough for protest.
“Our country is a joke. Women are not taken seriously and called hysterical or ‘bitch’ if they are as forceful as a man. Strong women are not silent. I march for myself, my daughter and my granddaughters!” Parker said. “Sick sick sick of this shutdown and our supposed leaders! I care!”
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