SAN FRANCISCO (CBS/AP) — Hundreds of thousands of women’s marchers amassed at parks and city halls throughout California on Saturday to condemn sexual harassment, violence against women and the presidency of Donald Trump.
The Women’s Marches began in January 2017 in the wake of the election of President Trump, drawing huge crowds at events across the globe. An estimated 100,000 people marched last year in San Francisco.
While electing female political leaders was a main focus of the events, female empowerment in general was the overriding theme. Many of the events featured a so-called Call to Action Alley, in which demonstrators can speak with representatives of nonprofit community organizations.
In San Francisco, where 100,000 people were expected, acting Mayor London Breed greeted marchers.
“We will not silently sit back as the Fed Gov continues to push an agenda that stigmatizes women’s rights, LGBTQ communities and immigrants,” she tweeted.
Oakland police said the Women’s March in downtown Oakland drew an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 attendees and was peaceful.
The march began in the vicinity of Fourteenth Street and Lake Merritt and proceeded to Frank H. Ogawa Plaza.
At the Oakland rally, one group of women came dressed in red robes and headdresses like those worn by the captive women in the TV series “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
Bay Area Women’s Marches also took place in locations including Walnut Creek and San Jose.
An estimated 20,000 attended the march in San Jose. Organizers said they hoped it inspires people to register to vote and become politically active.
“The fact that we’re all coming together shows that there’s strength — strength in numbers. And it demonstrates that there are other people here to stand up for you,” Laura Powers, a student participating in the march, told KPIX 5’s Devin Fehely.
Dezie Woods-Jones, the California president of Black Women Organized for Political Action, Saturday morning issued a statement encouraging African-American women to participate in the march.
“Let us continue to provide that leadership by raising our voices during the Women’s March,” Woods-Jones said in a statement.
California State Sen. Scott Wiener, one of many lawmakers taking part in the marches, said, “Today, I’m proud to once again follow the lead of women as we march in San Francisco and across the country.”
AROUND THE STATE
Speakers, including Hollywood stars, urged women to vote in the midterm elections that Democrats hope will let them regain control of the Republican-dominated House of Representatives.
Speakers and marchers condemned GOP-backed Trump administration policies that they consider threaten the rights of women, immigrants and gays.
“Women together can stop this slide to the bottom,” actress Alfre Woodard told a crowd at Los Angeles City Hall. “The 2018 midterms start now, today, at this spot in this moment. You have the power in your hands to change history.”
Actress Scarlett Johansson said women have been “conditioned” to need approval from men and referenced the Time’s Up movement against sexual harassment, saying: “For me, moving forward means time’s up on the female condition.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti estimated 500,000 people were at the rally — one of many being held on the anniversary of Trump’s inauguration.
Marchers, many in bright pink cat-eared “pussy” hats, held signs attacking Trump.
Diane Omari, who came to the march with 30 other men and women, held a sign reading “Trumpster for the Dumpster.”
“I’m sick to my stomach every day, and I find myself working on not being angry, because there’s only so much we can do. So to me, this is one of the ways I can let the world know that I resist,” said Joan Durham of Los Angeles, who described herself as an activist since the 1960s.
Sixteen-year-old Caley Medina said she wanted to spread her activism beyond her high school campus, so she came to the march with her mom and brother.
“This is my first women’s march and I’m honestly so glad that I came,” she said. “I think our generation is a little pessimistic because we don’t go out and vote in large numbers and we aren’t as politically active as we should be, so we really try to tell people that our opinions are worth it and it’s really important that we go out and speak our minds.”
Other peaceful demonstrations drew large crowds from the state Capitol in Sacramento to cities in the San Francisco Bay Area and south to San Diego.
In Santa Ana, south of Los Angeles, demonstrators danced to songs by Cyndi Lauper and Beyonce and chanted: “When we fight we win!” the Orange County Register reported.
“I’m worried for the future of our country,” said Lorraine Gayer of Huntington Beach. She held a sign with a picture of the Statue of Liberty that read: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled Norwegians” — a jab at President Trump’s reportedly crude remarks suggesting the U.S. could use fewer immigrants from Africa and Haiti and more from Norway.
© Copyright 2018 by CBS San Francisco. All rights reserved. The Associated Press and Bay City News contributed to this report. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed