When hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets of Manhattan for the first Women’s March in January 2017 and marched in tandem with millions of people across the country, the demonstration represented part of the collective, visceral reaction to President Donald Trump taking office. The diminished but determined crowds that forged through freezing temperatures and snow to keep the New York City Women’s March going on Saturday in some ways served as a reminder of how exhausting the last three years have been—and of the uncertainty those who oppose Trump still face in the months ahead.
At the 2020 Women’s March, demonstrators continued to wave signs calling for Trump to be booted from office, as they did from day one. That could actually happen this year, what with Trump’s impeachment trial underway and the presidential election coming up. But many still regard it as an uphill battle.
Barbara King, a 61-year-old artist, came down to the city from Hastings-on-Hudson to participate in the Women’s March for the fourth year in a row.
“I’m very disturbed by the GOP’s complacency and total lack of regard for the Constitution,” King said when asked about her thoughts on the impeachment proceedings. “I feel like Trump behaves as if he’s a mafia boss and they are so afraid of him that if they don’t support him he will get them out of office.”
King said she’s campaigning for Elizabeth Warren, but added that if Warren isn’t the Democratic nominee, she “will encourage people to ‘vote blue, no matter who,’” a phrase featured on a poster she carried.
Elsewhere, demonstrators (and, in some cases, people who identified themselves as campaign volunteers) expressed support for the array of other Democratic candidates still competing in the primary. Some said they were still undecided but felt it was important to show resistance to Trump in an election year.
“The fact that Trump seems to be intervening in the judicial branch in ways that are deeply disturbing is what’s really motivating me to action right now,” said Melisa Tezanos, an Upper West Sider who attended the march with family, including her six-year-old daughter. “And the fact that we’re coming up on an election year.”
Tezanos said she plans to join a presidential campaign once she decides who to support. Right now, she said, it’s between Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, and Michael Bloomberg.
Tezanos was part of the contingent of demonstrators that gathered on the west side of Central Park Saturday morning before marching through Columbus Circle and continuing downtown to Times Square. Others opted to attend a newer Women’s March event in Lower Manhattan’s Foley Square that made its debut last year. This was the second year in a row that Women’s March participants in New York City were divided among multiple, overlapping events put on by separate organizers (although this time they were united under a single tagline: Rise and Roar).
The Foley Square rally featured a long lineup of speakers and performers, including Evelyn Yang, wife of Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
In addition to expressing support for her husband’s idea to implement a universal basic income of $1,000 a month (“That’s one of the reasons I let him run for president,” she joked), Yang spoke out about a more personal issue: being sexually assaulted.
The lack of accountability for sexual assault is a topic that framed the first Women’s March, when people were still reeling from—and creating protest slogans that heavily referenced—Trump’s comments about grabbing women “by the pussy.” Four years later, it remains at the top of the news cycle and people’s minds.
“Far too many women in our society are harmed and hurt, and then betrayed by the institutions that are meant to protect us,” said Yang, getting cheers from a crowd that included visible groups of Bernie and Bloomberg supporters, in addition to the so-called “Yang Gang.”
The two Women’s March events Saturday were supposed to eventually converge in one big rally in Times Square, but it never seemed to come together. As the snow picked up in the afternoon, the marchers arriving in Times Square from Columbus Circle mostly dispersed, while speakers and performers continued to take the stage in Foley Square.
Whitney Smith, who lives on the Upper East Side, arrived in Times Square on Saturday afternoon to find only a couple of dozen stragglers left from the march. One small group sang an anti-war song. A woman climbed onto a bench to lead a chant against locking up migrant children. King and her friends were there with signs calling Republican Senators corrupt and Trump a cheater.
“When we look at this movement, it is a little bit difficult to pinpoint,” Smith said. “It’s just an overall frustration with the deterioration of our American values.”
Smith said she’s politically “pretty active year-long,” but that she and her friends still thought it was important to help boost the turnout for the Women’s March, rather than letting it peter out. “I feel very strongly that, it being 2020 and an election year, we [need to] continue making a push.”