NEW YORK — On Saturday morning, 21-year-old Theresa Edwards and her mother, Barbara, stepped out into Manhattan’s Upper West Side with large smiles on their faces and colorful homemade signs in hand. There was no way they would rather spend the warm and sunny winter day than at the second annual Women’s March on New York City.
“We went last year to the one in DC,” Theresa Edwards told The Times of Israel. “It was an amazing experience to be there and it was the first time I had been to a really big march.”
The 2017 Women’s March in the capital drew over 500,000 people. In addition to all the other related marches across the country on that day, it was the largest single-day protest recorded in US history. Taking part in that event, Edwards said, was what motivated her to do so again this weekend, exactly a year later.
New York was just one of the cities that held a Women’s March on Saturday. Some of the largest gatherings in the country took place in Washington, D.C, Chicago and Los Angeles. Crowds also joined in dozens of smaller towns and cities all over the country.
In New York, more than 120,000 people came out to the march. They took to the streets of Manhattan holding signs that read, “The future is female,” “My body, my choice,” and “Women’s rights are human rights,” among other creative ones.
Many also wore pink beanies with cat ears, the symbol of the 2017 Women’s March.
“It’s very powerful,” Theresa Edwards said. “We all sit behind our computers and we’re very isolated, but it’s good to be with so many people who feel the same way.”
Just like the year before, protesters came not just to promote women’s rights, but also to express disdain for US President Donald Trump and his administration. Exactly a year after his inauguration, it seems that among many of the marchers, the feeling has only strengthened.
“I think that in the year that’s gone by, it has gone from a suspicion that the government that we have is going to be a disaster, to the knowledge that the current administration is a failure,” Barbara Edwards said. “We need to make a change. I worry that a lot of people are just hoping to survive for three years until it’s over and I hope that we can invoke a movement to change these things now and not just wait around.”
In the crowd were many New Yorkers, but also some who flew in especially for the event. Protesters came alone, with their dogs, in groups of friends or family, or as representatives of various non-profit organizations. Many chanted slogans such as “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA,” and “Hey hey, oh oh, Donald Trump has got to go.”
Among the organizations marching were also several Jewish groups, including the National Council of Jewish Women, a 125-year-old group for which the issues brought up on Saturday are nothing new.
“We as an organization have been marching for over a century,” said NCJW’s director of marketing and communications, Amanda Lang. “Clearly the issues of the day are slightly different than they were in 1893, but we are still sounding the cry for women’s rights, reproductive freedom, women’s health, immigration rights.”
Although women’s rights are a daily struggle for NCJW, Lang said she was encouraged to see the overwhelming number of people who have begun to care vocally about the issues.
“You can’t really ask for a better day,” she said.
Lang added she believed it was “crucial” for Jewish women to be present in the Women’s March.
“It’s about the values that Judaism teaches us: to welcome the stranger, to fight for dignity for all people,” she said. “Those are values that not only Jewish people hold, but they are distinctly Jewish values and they are the ones that propel us to come out on a day like today and they are also the ones that propel us to do our work on a daily basis.”
Among the crowd at the Women’s March were also a large number of men. One of them, Vladimir, carried a sign reading, “Men of quality don’t fear equality.”
“I wanted to support all the women in my life: my wife, my niece, my sister,” he said. “We really need to move forward, equalize pay, equalize rights and have them fully involved in all the decisions that are made.”
As a man, Vladimir said he felt that he too had a responsibility toward the movement.
“I think [men] need to show our support, and do our part,” he said. “The women can’t do it alone. Everybody needs to participate in this.”
Although most of the messages chanted and displayed at the event were similar to last year’s, one new slogan was very conspicuous: the #MeToo hashtag, which was seen on many cardboard signs and t-shirts.
Since it began less than four months ago, the movement against sexual harassment has not only sparked a national conversation but also brought about the downfall of prominent men in various fields including business, politics and Hollywood.
But even though #MeToo was among the causes women marchers advocated for, it did not occupy a central place in Saturday’s event.
“I think it’s definitely part of what is happening today, but it’s not all that is happening today,” Theresa Edwards said. “It’s about standing up and supporting other women and being allies.”
Lang, of the NCJW, added that the #MeToo movement was “a necessary conversation.”
“We are in a moment in time, not unlike where we were last year on this day, where women’s voices are being lifted up,” Lang said. “In that sense, it’s part of the same thing. So if we can also lift up the issue of sexual harassment and violence, why wouldn’t we?”