With the 2020 presidential election looming on the horizon, thousands of protestors took to the streets of Los Angeles for the 4th Annual Women’s March. The crowd size, estimated by event organizers as numbering over 300,000, was significantly smaller than previous years, but the gathering of women, men and children appeared as galvanized and impassioned as ever while championing a wide range of causes, including equality for women, reproductive rights, climate change, gun control, immigration reform and international peace.
The march kicked off at 10:15 a.m. on Saturday after attendees congregated at downtown Downtown L.A.’s Pershing Square. Protestors, several of whom sported the movement’s trademark pink hats, wore clothing emblazoned with messages and carried handmade signs. As the marchers proceeded along the half-mile route, they invoked various chants, including “Whose streets? Our streets!,” “This is what democracy looks like!” and “What do we want? Equal Rights! When do we want them? Now!”
As the crowd amassed before a stage set up in front of Los Angeles City Hall, a two-hour-long program of speakers and performances commenced with words from the First Partner of California, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the wife of Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA). Newsom observed that this year marked the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.
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Newsom also highlighted the significance of the upcoming election. “This is the chance to show the world that when we have each other’s backs, we are so much more powerful than when we fight each other,” Newsom told the crowd. “When we come together, when we join our voices and use our power, and when women lead, we are unstoppable.”
Among the speakers were notable politicians including, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Democratic Representatives Maxine Waters and Karen Bass. The Women’s March also had the support of celebrities with speakers like Academy Award-winning actresses Marlee Matlin and Mira Sorvino, Emmy-winning actress Tatiana Maslany, Amber Heard, Rosanna Arquette, Lea Thompson, Yvette Nicole Brown, Caitlyn Jenner, Bella Thorne, Michelle Rodriguez, Raven-Symoné, Lea Thompson, Frances Fisher and attorney Gloria Allred.
As a giant baby Trump balloon soared overhead, Matlin, addressing the crowd through an interpreter, eviscerated the president in a fiery speech. After instructing the audience on how to make the ASL sign for “no,” Matlin said, “Are you ready for four more years of racism and bigotry? No. Are you ready for four more years of environmental destruction and deregulation? No. Are you ready for four more years of children in cages? No. Four more years of threatening a women’s right to choose? No. Then you are ready for three very important signs. Make a change and vote.”
With Harvey Weinstein’s trial currently underway, Sorvino, one of the dozens of women who has accused the disgraced producer of sexual misconduct, used her speech to celebrate the accomplishments of the MeToo and Time’s Up movements. “A lot has changed since the first Women’s March, a lot hasn’t,” Sorvino said. “But that is no reason to let up on our collective efforts. Predators who previously enjoyed immunity and the ability to hurt and destroy all people’s opportunities to work in safe and fair environments are historically being brought to justice. Because of the bravery of hundreds of women, men and children who told the truth, the Harvey Weinsteins, Jeffrey Epsteins, Bill Cosbys and R. Kellys are finally realizing that we as a society have stopped tolerating their predations, no matter their popularity.”
Sorvino continued, “Maybe our children will not have to suffer the insane level of violence and coercion every previous generation has and come of age in a true meritocracy.”
Heard, who has accused ex-husband Johnny Depp of domestic violence, made reference to her “very public, heart-wrenchingly lonely battle for justice” during her speech, while imploring women to speak up and end the culture of silence. “I am here today to join my voice with yours in recognizing that times are changing and they are changing as we step out of the shadows and into the light and lift our voices into a movement, recognizing that we together, standing shoulder to shoulder, comprise a vast, unstoppable force for change.”
In making her first appearance at the Women’s March, Jenner called attention to transgender activism within the movement. “Today I stand before you humbled by the power of the movement I see right in front of me,” Jenner said. “No politician, whether a Republican, Democrat, Green Party, Independent, has the power that we have right here in front of me right now. And together as women, trans women and cis women, we have the power to influence our communities, our families, our friends and colleagues, and turn this country around.”
Arquette, a longtime supporter of the Women’s March, explained to Variety that she was encouraged by the progress that has been made since the event’s inception in 2017. “There is an impact. It’s happening, slowly but surely, and we are not going to stop. No matter how much you try to shut down our voices. It’s like a whack-a-mole. There will just be more and more.”
Four-time Grammy winner Seal, Adrienne Bailon, Jenifer Lewis and 2007 “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks were among the event’s performers. Backstage, Sparks told Variety, “The exciting thing for me was to be able to have my whole family here. My husband married a strong woman. My son has a strong woman for a mom and I want him to be able to see strong women, know strong women, and support them and love them, but it’s really important to be here because clearly as women, we are still working to reach where we want to go or actually where we should be.”
As the event wound down, Los Angeles resident Marjan Vayghan hoisted her heart-shaped sign over her shoulder and smiled toward the stage. “I come to these every year and the energy carries me throughout the year,” she told Variety. “I’m usually the first one to show up and the last one to clean up afterwards. And I highly appreciate the organizers for putting on this event and bringing women together.”