‘We Are Here to Stay': Hundreds of Thousands Flood Washington for Women's March

Millions across the nation and around the globe rallied in solidarity

Hundreds of thousands of women and men, many wearing pink, pointy-eared "pussyhats" to mock the new president, poured into the nation's capital by bus, car and train Saturday for a march aimed at showing Donald Trump they won't be silent over the next four years.

"We march today for the moral core of this nation, against which our new president is waging a war," actress America Ferrera told the crowd in Washington. "Our dignity, our character, our rights have all been under attack and a platform of hate and division assumed power yesterday. But the president is not America. ... We are America and we are here to stay."

A massive turnout packed the entire route of the Women's March on Washington, preventing organizers from leading the formal march toward the White House. Instead of trekking en masse to the Ellipse by the White House as planned, the protesters were told to make their way there on their own by way of other streets.

The Washington, D.C., event was the largest of more than 600 "sister marches" planned across the country and around the world. Organizers estimated 3 million people would march worldwide, and city centers across the U.S. were flooded with people in rallies that lasted for hours. 

Organizers of the march on Washington expected more than 500,000 people to attend the gathering, according to Deputy Mayor Kevin Donahue, more than double initial predictions.

The march attracted significant support from celebrities. Ferrara led the artists' contingent in Washington that included Scarlett Johansson, Katy Perry, Ashley Judd, Cher, Melissa Harris-Perry and Michael Moore. The performance lineup included Madonna, Alicia Keys, Janelle Monae, Maxwell, Samantha Ronson, the Indigo Girls and Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Hillary Clinton, who lost to Trump in the election, took to Twitter to thank the participants for "standing, speaking and marching for our values." And Democratic politicians spoke as well, including senators Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand and Tammy Duckworth.

There were early signs across Washington that Saturday's crowds could top those that gathered on Friday to watch Trump's swearing-in ceremony.

Metro subway stations and trains cars were overwhelmed with riders at many locations. Several sites had long lines wrapped around city blocks of marchers waiting to enter stations. Metro's Federal Triangle station, which initially planned to be stay closed throughout Saturday over safety concerns for the presidential inauguration, reversed that decision and reopened the station just after 9 a.m.

In New York, the demand for last-minute bus tickets sent Greyhound scrambling to add 18 extra buses to the 3:45 a.m. schedule, but the short notice meant some buses didn't get drivers on time. A Greyhound spokeswoman said the buses left by 6:30 a.m. and there were no further delays.

Many arrived wearing hand-knit "pussyhats," a message of female empowerment aimed squarely at Trump's crude boast about grabbing women's genitals, caught on tape in 2005 and first aired during the presidential campaign.

The marchers brandished signs with messages such as "Women won't back down" and "Less fear more love" and decried Trump's stand on such issues as abortion, health care, diversity and climate change.

March organizers said women are "hurting and scared" as the new president takes office and want a greater voice for women in political life.

"When women are more harshly criticized and when we speak up for equality, we need every woman and every man to speak up for us, too," Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who called herself a "chick mayor," told the crowd.

As the rally alongside the National Mall took shape, Trump opened his first full day as president by attending a prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral, a tradition for the day after inauguration.

Outside on the streets of Washington, feminist leader Gloria Steinem described the worldwide mobilization as "the upside of the downside: This is an outpouring of energy and democracy like I have never seen in my very long life."

Plenty of men were part of the tableau, too.

In Washington, Joy Rodriguez, of Miami, arrived with her husband, William, and their two daughters, ages 12 and 10.

"I want to make sure their rights are not infringed on in these years coming up," Joy Rodriguez said.

Matt Carpenter, 51, came to D.C. from Boston with his 14-year-old daughter, Alexandra.

"I wanted to stand for my daughters and my wife and also for myself because we think that there are really bad things going on and everybody needs to own the democratic process at this point and make things better," Carpenter said.

Bruce Lobson, from Salisbury, Maryland, took the Greyhound from Baltimore to join his daughter for the march in Washington.

"I'm here to support women," Lobson said. "Out of deep concern for our democratic institution."

Vivian Posey, 70, from Hollywood, California, said she came to Washington because "it's important for women to take stand if we want leadership in this country to be more balanced."

"I hope that people who need to know about this are watching, and not dismissing it as so often women's rights have been dismissed," Posey said.

Rose Wurm, 64, a retired medical secretary from Bedford, Pennsylvania, boarded a Washington-bound bus in Hagerstown, Maryland, at 7 a.m. carrying two signs: one asking Trump to stop tweeting and one asking him to fix, not trash, the "Obamacare" health law.

"There are parts of it that do need change. It's something new, something unique that's not going to be perfect right out of the gate," she said.

Women and other groups were demonstrating across the nation and as far abroad as Myanmar and Australia.

The rallies were a peaceful counterpoint to the window-smashing unrest that unfolded on Friday when self-described anarchists tried to disrupt the inauguration. Police used pepper spray and stun grenades against demonstrators. More than 200 people were arrested.

But the Women's March on Washington didn't yield a single arrest, according to D.C. Homeland Security Director Christopher Geldart.

In Chicago, organizers canceled the march portion of their event for safety reasons after the overflow crowd reached an estimated 250,000. Demonstrators rallied near Grant Park instead.

Rosie Perez, Whoopi Goldberg, and Taylor Schilling of "Orange is the New Black" help kick off the Women's March in New York City Saturday. Organizers expect more than 65,000 people to march in support of women's equality and human rights.

Meanwhile, in California, hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets of downtown Los Angeles — organizers said it totalled 750,000 — and several thousand more gathered in communities across the Bay Area.

The idea for the women's march took off after a number of women posted on social media in the hours after Trump's election about the need to mobilize. Hundreds of groups quickly joined the cause, pushing a wide range of causes, including abortion rights, gun control, climate change and immigrant rights.

While the march organizers' "mission and vision" statement never mentions Trump and stresses broad themes, including the message that "women's rights are human rights," the unifying factor among those turning out appeared to be a loathing for the new president and dismay that so much of the country voted for him.

Associated Press writers Nancy Benac, Ben Nuckols, Alanna Durkin Richer, Brian Witte and David Dishneau, and NBC Washington's Lexi Lexie Shapitl and Megan Yoder contributed to this report.

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