WASHINGTON — Thousands gathered across the globe Saturday for the third annual Women's March, protesting for gender equality and myriad other issues. Women of all ages took to the streets in Washington, New York City, Los Angeles, Berlin, and Paris, as well as several other major cities worldwide.
In Washington, DC — the location of the focal march that inspired the movement in 2017 — turnout for the march was lower than it had been in past years, with the rally drawing an estimated several thousand marchers, but nowhere near the crowds that flooded the streets on the day after Trump's inauguration in 2017.
After initially projecting that some 500,000 people would show up for the 2019 event, organizers in DC eventually reduced the estimated attendance to 10,000 people, according to the event permit issued by the National Park Service on Thursday. The trend appeared to be mirrored at marches in other cities, including Los Angeles and New York.
The third annual march took place at a time of significant turmoil for the Women's March organization, and the broader movement it spawned.
The controversy has included allegations of anti-Semitism against two of the leaders of the national Women's March organization, stemming from copresident Tamika Mallory's attendance at a Nation of Islam event during which black nationalist Louis Farrakhan made a series of anti-Semitic and anti-gay remarks. Another cofounder of the national Women's March, Palestinian American Linda Sarsour, has also been the subject of controversy for her criticism of Israel.
Despite the ongoing backlash, the group has not explicitly condemned Farrakhan, though it did issue a statement that the Women's March's principles were not aligned with the Nation of Islam leader's views. In interviews during the week leading up to the march, Mallory continued to decline to denounce Farrakhan when asked directly about his remarks about the Jewish and LGBT communities.
However, the controversy wasn't foremost in the minds of the women in the streets of the nation's capital on Saturday.
Indeed, many women at the march told BuzzFeed News that they were unaware of any controversy surrounding the event, or only discovered it from news stories that appeared in the search results when they googled the location and start time of the march earlier that day.
Many of the those who talked to BuzzFeed News cited the importance of "showing up" and representing their causes and communities in the wider Women's March movement.
One furloughed federal employee told BuzzFeed News that not she "never thought about" not attending the march and representing one of the tens of thousands of unpaid workers affected by the shutdown.
"Most of the time we're out here in the streets, screaming the loudest, and they don't want to hear us," said Caly Tyler, a DC resident. "We demand that our voices and our issues be heard."
Bineshi Albert, who marched on Saturday with her daughter, Dezbah Evans, said they attended on behalf of Native American women, who are killed at a rate of more than 10 times the national average, according to federal statistics. Indigenous women are also 2.5 times more likely to be the victim of sexual assault than any other group of women in the United States, and they make up a disproportionate number of the country's reported missing persons.
"Indigenous women aren't always invited to these sorts of things," said Albert, who told BuzzFeed News she and her daughter identified as members of the Chippewa of the Thames, Yuchi, and Navajo tribes. "We have to show up and refuse to shut up."
"Issues affecting women have a more widespread effect on women of color and communities of color," she added.
The controversies surrounding the leadership of the Women’s March organization did have some impact on the movement’s profile as it celebrated its third anniversary.
In the wake of news reports about the organizational infighting and mismanagement, major liberal groups, including the Democratic National Committee and EMILY’s List, pulled support from the movement and its march. And while rallies in past years have featured high-profile speakers and participants, many Democratic politicians — including most of those thought to be considering 2020 presidential bids — steered clear of Saturday’s events.
Notable exceptions included New York Senator and recently-declared 2020 candidate Kirsten Gillibrand, who addressed a Women's March in Des Moines, Iowa, and newly-elected US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who spoke to the crowd at two competing rallies in New York. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi marched in San Francisco, her hometown, but did not speak at the event