Pink Power: 200K march against Trump

At the Women’s March, many erupted in anger as they passed the Trump International Hotel and Tower. “Our rights are not up for grabs,” the woman’s sign read. Photo by Q. Sakamaki

BY EILEEN STUKANE | The pink “pussyhats” showed up on thousands of heads again as the second Women’s March on New York City brought an estimated 200,000 people out to protest against Donald Trump. They stretched along Central Park West up to W. 75th St., then marched across Central Park South and down Sixth Ave. to 43rd St.

“I love the fact that I cannot see the end of this,” said Whoopi Goldberg, speaking from the platform stage at W. 61st St.

Last year’s Women’s March, originally planned for Washington, D.C., inspired same-day Women’s Marches across the globe, an organic uprising of millions who were stunned by the 2016 election that made Trump America’s president. Worldwide this year, 280 Women’s Marches filled the streets simultaneously.

The mood of that first march was reactionary — an outlet was needed to oppose the misogyny that threatened women’s reproductive rights, and equal rights in general. Resistance was needed to protect freedom of the press, an expected assault on the environment and a feared crackdown on minority populations and immigrants.

This time was different. Reaction has become action, and a movement is underway. This 2018 Women’s March was a call to vote, to run for office, to speak out, and never be silenced.

“The core principles have remained the same,” said Sarah Steinhardt, the press officer for Women’s March Alliance, the organizer of the Jan. 20 New York City Women’s March. “We march for women’s rights and gender equality, to empower women to use their voices, and to give them the tools and the knowledge and the information to do so.”

A group calling themselves Brick x Brick were at the Women’s March, forming a human wall festooned with various derogatory statements Donald Trump has made about women over the years. Photo by Q. Sakamaki

However, in addition to those core principles, this year’s march promoted voter registration, with a clear message to use the power of the ballot.

“Our goal is to register 1 million women to vote by the November election,” Steinhardt explained, “We feel very strongly that women should know how to exercise their rights, and the most basic example of that is voting.”

On that initiative WMA is working with voter registration groups, such as, Rock The Vote and Voto Latino.

While the marchers would hear that call to vote from speakers who rallied the assembled thousands on this good-for-marching 50-degree Saturday, they would mostly be moved by the stories of those who were not household names. There were familiar faces who inspired, Rosie Perez, Whoopi Goldberg, Yoko Ono and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. But the day belonged to those women who were committing themselves to change the culture behind the headlines.

Waiting to start moving on Central Park West at the beginning of the Women’s March. Photo by Q. Sakamaki

From the stage, newly elected New Jersey Freeholder Ashley Bennett, a psychiatric emergency screener attending grad school, told of how she had seen fellow Jersey Freeholder John Carman post a meme during last year’s Women’s March that read: “Will the women’s protest end in time for them to cook dinner?” Bennett was offended, and though she had never been in politics, she was inspired by last year’s Women’s March to run for Carman’s seat.

Bennett admitted that initially she was afraid.

“If you feel the call and you’re afraid, just do it afraid,” she said. “You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be willing.”

Sulma Arzu-Brown, a Garifuna woman from Honduras, wears multiple hats as director of operations for the New York City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, co-owner of Boogie Down Grind Café in the Bronx and author of the children’s book “Bad Hair Does Not Exist.”

On stage with her mother and two young daughters, Arzu-Brown spoke emotionally of the sacrifice her mom made by leaving her and her brother behind in Honduras to come to the U.S. In her native country, her mother was told she would not be promoted in her job because she was black, Latina, Garifuna and a woman.

“I stand on the shoulders of my mother,” she said. “We are creating a path for our children that lets them know that we are not just people of color, that we are people of beautiful color, that we belong to the human race and we come from beautiful places that we cultivated with our bare hands.”

Empowering through the ballot box was a major theme of this year’s Women’s March. Photo by Milo Hess

Though the #MeToo Movement was not mentioned by name, the ability to speak out about the pain of sexual harassment and abuse presented itself. From her wheelchair, Nadina LaSpina, a disabled activist, told the marchers that the disabled are not spared from sexual assault by medical professionals.

She also reminded that in the struggle for equal pay, disabled individuals earn 37 percent less overall than the able-bodied.

A.G. Schneiderman had noted that achieving equal pay for equal work was fighting the existing norm of “75 cents on the dollar if you’re a white woman, 63 cents if you’re an African-American woman, 54 cents if you’re a Latina.”

With Ono looking on, the singer MILCK performed “Quiet,” a song with the refrain, “I can’t keep quiet, no! Let it out now.”

Barricades removed, women, men and children, united surged forward through the streets. An electric energy spread from person to person, especially when the marchers passed the Trump International Hotel & Tower, at Columbus Circle, and then the Trump Parc, on Central Park South, shouting chants: “We need a leader, not a creepy tweeter!” “Love, not hate, that’s what makes America great,” “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go” and the repurposed, “Lock him up!”

Right back at ya, Trump! Photo by Milo Hess

The determined, hopeful spirit of the marchers was felt by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who held hands with his wife, Chirlane McCray, the city’s first lady, as they marched in the thick of the crowd, and easily spoke with other marchers.

“I’m very proud of New York City today with over 100,000 already out to fight for the rights of women and build a movement that started last year,” the mayor said. “It’s going to grow from this point on.”

McCray, when asked what she thought of her New York sisters on the march, responded, “I love them! They’re out here with so much energy and enthusiasm. I think there are more people out here than last year. I marched last year, too. This shows much of what we really believe in. You see the signs out here, the values that they’re representing; this is the direction we have to move in. We’re laying the foundation with this march for the elections coming up. I think we’re going to see so many more women in office, so many more, leadership from women like we’ve never seen before. It’s a great thing!”

Many of the signs, such as Chelsea artist Mary Frank’s poster painting — “Don’t Tear Families Apart” — showed concern for the current crackdown on immigration and support of for the DACA “Dreamers.”

Who’s the adult here? Photo by Q. Sakamaki

Nina Kulkarni, with the League of Women Voters, was marching nearby with a loud speaker, announcing that she could register voters on the spot.

Chandra Turner, who lives in Westchester, brought her 11-year-old daughter, Madeline, “because I wanted her to be here and witness this and not feel alone,” she said. “I wanted her to see that she is not the only one who feels the way she does, that there are other people who are standing up for equality. She is worried about children being deported who were brought here. Her father is not an American citizen. It’s scary to think about what can happen with this administration.”

Creative signage revealed continued loathing of President Trump, the points often being made with humor. Shari Oliver, a seventh-grade social studies / history teacher from Connecticut, came with her 15-year-old daughter, Grace.

“We’ve been disgusted with so much for so long,” Oliver said.

Her daughter carried a sign reading, “Cheeto In Chief Is Making Me Gassy.” The Oval Office as a toilet bowl was another clever image.

The day was peaceful, with only a subtle police presence and the sky devoid of buzzing helicopters. The focus was on the power of one’s voice multiplied by others.

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