'We're Not Going To Be Silent': Protesters Prep For Women's March On Washington

Jan 19, 2017
Originally published on January 19, 2017 12:53 pm
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Donald Trump's inauguration will draw plenty of supporters here to the nation's capital tomorrow. There are also plans for large rallies against Donald Trump. And Saturday's Women's March on Washington is expected to bring demonstrators from across the U.S., including New York City, where NPR's Hansi Lo Wang met a group getting ready for their trip.

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: They'll pack into buses, trains and cars. But before these New Yorkers head for D.C...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Buttons.

WANG: They're stocking up on protest gear for the Women's March.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: The buttons are $2, or three for $5.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Are you on one of the mini-busses?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #4: Yeah. I am, too.

WANG: A group of women are crowded around a table collecting donations for the rally. On this afternoon, they're inside a wine bar and restaurant with a faint whiff of magic marker. Many of the demonstrators here are making anti-Trump signs to take to the streets on Saturday.

CAROLYN LOMBARDO: I'm old enough to have seen the marches in the '60s. And this president is the absolute opposite of anybody that I would want in office.

WANG: This is Carolyn Lombardo of Manhattan.

You've made some signs today?

LOMBARDO: Not very feminist, but it says, Traitor Trump.

WANG: What do you mean by that?

LOMBARDO: I don't think he's looking out for our interests. He has said negative things about just about everyone except Putin.

WANG: The Women's March may have been inspired by Trump becoming the 45th president of the United States, but organizers say it's not all about him. Instead, they say they're marching to remind the country about the need to expand and protect the rights of all women, no matter their race, religion, country of origin, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. They're calling for a wide range of demands, from paid family leave and affordable access to abortion and birth control, to accountability in cases of police brutality and a higher minimum wage. Still, organizers have been debating about not just the issues, but also the march itself.

KAREN WALTUCH: It was very, very important to us that it wasn't just a white effort - that it wasn't just upper-middle-class white people from New York that were able to afford to go.

WANG: Karen Waltuch is the coordinator of the New York City chapter of the Women's March, which has been collecting donations to organize free bus rides to Washington. Waltuch describes herself as a white woman who was raised Jewish, and she says she and other organizers have been working hard to highlight the challenges facing specifically women of color, including those in the immigrant and LGBT communities.

WALTUCH: Their lives, their opportunities, their educational experiences are not to the level of a white woman. They're not to the level of a white man, if you want to take it all the way up to the top. But I think that until everyone has the same experiences and the same opportunities, we can't stop working.

WANG: There's been some pushback against the organizers' emphasis on race. And others criticize the march for initially having only white organizers and calling itself the Million Woman March, just like the 1997 black women's march in Philadelphia. Jewel Cadet shared those concerns, but she says she decided anyway to organize a bus to the march for transgender, gender non-conforming and homeless protesters from New York.

JEWEL CADET: And it was difficult to recruit people to be on my bus because they were like, you're an unapologetically black, queer feminist. This march isn't for you. And I'm like, you know what? I'm going to change the narrative.

WANG: A narrative that Cadet traces back to the time when the women's suffrage movement discriminated against women of color.

CADET: Those who know our history, we know that the first wave of feminism did not include trans women. It did not include gender non-conforming people. It actually was very anti-black. And so we have to really expand what womanhood looks like.

WANG: For Anne Hogan, the Women's March represents a call for equality for all Americans during the Trump administration.

ANNE HOGAN: Our leaders of government, aside from Trump, will hear our voice and understand that we're not going to be silent.

WANG: Hogan is 48 and says this will be her first protest. She's never marched for a cause before.

HOGAN: But I feel like there's such a threat to our basic human rights and our democracy. It's time that we all have to stand up.

WANG: Organizers say they're preparing for 200,000 protesters to stand up on Saturday in Washington. More than 600 other cities and towns around the world are hosting Women's Marches, too. Some organizers say despite their outreach efforts to communities of color, they're expecting the D.C. crowd to be predominantly white women who did not vote for Donald Trump. According to exit polls, though, the majority of white women - 53 percent - did. Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.