A sea of people donning pink “pussyhats” and holding poster boards high over their heads stood shoulder-to-shoulder on a foggy Saturday morning, taking part in one of the largest movements for women in U.S. history.
On a city corner around 9:30 a.m., a bus stopped and about 250 women, who traveled more than 14 hours from Gainesville, stepped off. Among them was 70-year-old Jane Sapp, who left her small, conservative town of Williston, Florida, more than 780 miles behind her as she prepared to march on the D.C. streets.
“We feel strongly that this is something we need to do,” Sapp said, noting that many of her neighbors criticized her decision to protest. “This country is great, and we don’t want it to be not great.”
In the streets of the nation’s capitol, entire city blocks were packed with people who participated in the Women’s March on Washington, a national movement that brought more than 500,000 to the city, according to the Associated Press. The march drew an estimated 1 million participants in sister marches across the world, a day after Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th U.S. president, the AP reported.
Unlike the Inauguration Day protests, in which 200 people were arrested, no known arrests were made Saturday, the AP reported.
Before stepping foot off the bus, Nancy Ballario, 82, a friend of Sapp’s, recalled when she marched in Miami Beach against Richard Nixon in 1968. Her fear of what a Trump administration may mean for civil rights motivated her to take to the streets in protest again.
“I’m afraid (Trump) will set it all back,” said Ballario, who had an American flag scarf tied around her head.
As they stood a few blocks from L’Enfant Plaza, the group of Gainesville women adjusted bright orange sashes, reading “Florida,” that hung across their bodies as they pulled the pink pussyhats onto their heads. The hats served as protesters’ spin on Trump’s red “Make American Great Again” trucker hats — and a nod to lewd comments he made in 2005 about grabbing women’s genitals.
As the group neared the rally location, the women embedded themselves into the crowd, walking alongside strangers, smiling and chatting in solidarity.
The buses were part of Gainesville resident Kristin Birdsey’s plan to bring a taste of Gainesville to the capitol.
“If I have to be here for this day, I’m really glad that I was here with 600,000 like-minded people who want (Trump) to know whether we voted for him or not, he’s still our president, too,” said 33-year-old Birdsey, who owns a preschool in Gainesville.
In an effort to help those who otherwise couldn’t afford the trip, she collected donations from those going who could afford to pay extra.
For UF geological sciences graduate student Karastin Katusin, the donations allowed her to be part of history.
She proudly wore her pussyhat, complete with cat ears, as she held a sign reading, “Paid 100% for my degrees/earning 77% of their worth” on one side and “Virgin Mary had more reproductive rights than we do” on the other.
As she stood in the 50-degree January winter and marched, she said she did it for her mother and grandmother, who weren’t able to make it. She wanted to take a stand for women’s reproductive and sexual rights, she said.
“Women’s bodies aren’t playgrounds for other people,” she said.
As speakers pledged their support for minority groups before the march began, the crowd grew restless. They pressed forward toward the Washington Monument before the official go-ahead.
Moving as one, they sang along with pop icon Madonna, who made an appearance and performed. The protesters held up their fists as they went through different battle cries.
UF alumna Anna Bandingstee, who took a three-and-a-half-hour train ride from her current home in New York City, wore a Hillary Clinton pin as she shouted “Tiny hands, tiny feet — all he does is tweet, tweet, tweet.”
Bandingstee graduated from UF in 2012, the same year Barack Obama was re-elected as U.S. president. She said as a lesbian woman and as someone who has a best friend who is Muslim, it was important for her to be there.
“I've been in and out of tears all day,” she said. “This is history happening right now. This many women have not come together in this sort of way in ever.”
Gainesville resident Heather Videon, 29, took the trip with her 7-year-old daughter, Maliyah Mincey.
When they boarded the bus to head back home, the two reflected on the protest.
Maliyah, the youngest on the bus, was disappointed after she knew Hillary Clinton would not be the first female president. The march, her mother said, was a way for her daughter to know they still had a voice.
After a long day of marching, Maliyah paused and could only briefly mention what the protest meant to her.
It was “all about women’s rights,” Maliyah said. Her mother agreed.
“I am just glad that we were able to be a part of it and really proud that I can teach her to be proud of her rights and who she is and fight for them,” Videon said.
I nk bled from Sarah Pattison’s sign as she and other UF students joined thousands marching in Tallahassee under a rainbow of umbrellas and raincoats.
“The future is nasty,” the sign read, its edges smudged after a mile-long walk in the pouring rain.
The UF political science senior made the trip to the state capital with about 40 members of the UF College Democrats. At 9:15 a.m., the group piled into eight cars to march alongside activists from different cities at the Women’s March on Tallahassee, said Pattison, the organization’s vice president.
It was one of hundreds across the country and worldwide — an outcry for women’s rights following President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Despite the gray sky and on-and-off showers, 15,000 people from all corners of the state gathered to send a message to legislators and Gov. Rick Scott, who supported Trump, cheering louder as the rain fell harder.
“It’s a march symbolizing the fact that we’re not remaining silent,” Pattison said. “We’re going to demand equality.”
In preparation, police shut down the route leading through Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University’s campus. Laura Goodhue, the executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, said her staff of 10 had only expected a crowd of about 1,500.
“Today’s the moment, but this is the start of a movement,” she said.
Barbara Zdravecky, the CEO of the Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida for the past 23 years, pinned a small gay pride ribbon to her jean jacket as she marched for reproductive rights.
The latest attack on her organization, a bill introduced by two Florida lawmakers Jan. 10, aims to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
“Legislators are politicians — not physicians — and should not be making these decisions for women,” she said. “We have to fight back. It’s no time to sit on the couch.”
As she and other protesters prepared to make their way down Wahnish Way, small crowds formed around Brigitte Stephenson, 24, to take pictures of her black, six-layered 1840s-inspired dress and sign that read, “I can’t believe we are still fighting for this s---.”
The Sanford, Florida, resident said she spent months making the dress, a representation of the women from the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, the first women’s rights convention.
“The president has threatened to go back on years and years of progress,” she said. “Let’s finally have the voices be heard of women from hundreds of years ago.”
UF history professor Sean Trainor also said he thinks back to the past when he mourns about the future.
The 31-year-old stood under a black umbrella as rain started to pour. He said he felt depressed while watching the inauguration Friday, but being immersed in the crowd of protesters re-energized him.
“I’ve lost a lot of sleep,” he said. “I’m ready to make him lose some sleep over us.”
At 2 p.m., the protesters made their way to FAMU’s Student Recreation Center behind a banner reading, “All families deserve justice and security.” They shouted call-and-response chants as they walked the mile.
After, members of the UF College Democrats stood side-by-side in the facility, needing to lean into their neighbors’ ears to be heard.
Hunter Wolff, a 19-year-old UF political science freshman who came on the UF College Democrats’ trip, said this era in history will be remembered — whether it be positively or negatively.
“I want to be able to say that I was part of something at that time,” she said.
During the post-march rally, speakers came up and talked about women’s, black and transgender rights. People lined their posters against the walls as they listened.
Among the crowd, Beth Grant, a ’60s flower child from Thomasville, Georgia, said she never thought she would still be fighting for civil rights in 2017.
In the summer of 1970, while living in New York City, she marched in the Women’s Strike for Equality with Bella Abzug and Gloria Steinem, notable social and political rights activists.
Marching 47 years later, she couldn’t believe this country elected Trump. But the 68-year-old said she’s still hopeful for the future.
“Progress will happen,” she said.
In 1987, Jackie Betz was arrested on UF’s campus for vandalizing Tigert Hall in the name of protest.
Thirty years later, and a day after Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the U.S., she channeled the civil disobedience of her past along with hundreds of others along Newberry Road in Gainesville.
On Trump’s first full day as president of the U.S., the 70-year-old joined a crowd of more than 500 on Saturday to protest Trump’s administration and the agenda it aims to implement over the next four years.
Across the country, hundreds of thousands joined in, organizing sister demonstrations in coordination with the Women’s March on Washington.
“He has caused us to build a movement that will shape American history,” Betz said. “This is history in the making right here.”
Protesters lined up outside Hobby Lobby on West Newberry Road waving signs, chanting and trying to send a message about women's rights, climate change and social issues in the era of Trump and a Republican-led Congress.
The demonstration was coordinated by the National Women’s Liberation, which also organized the Women’s March on Washington, said Kendra Vincent, who helped organize the Gainesville protest.
The protesters chose Hobby Lobby as their location to organize because of the company’s decision not to offer birth control to its employees on the grounds of religious freedom.
In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in the craft store’s favor, according to The New York Times.
Vincent said that while the location of the protest wasn’t an accident, the primary target of the protest remained President Trump.
“My body, my choice,” the crowd chanted at one point. “Racist, sexist, anti-gay; we’ll fight Trump all the way.”
Members of the crowd held signs reading, “My body… by invitation only,” “Not my president” and “Don't forget to set your clocks back 50 years.”
Betz was “beyond thrilled” when she arrived to the protest, which took up large swaths of sidewalk along the busy road.
“This is like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” she said. “He has energized the left, and he will see a force that will shut him down.”
Vincent, who helped lead the crowd, said she was shocked at its size.
With the National Women’s Liberation holding events in Tennessee; New York; Washington, D.C.; Gainesville; and Tallahassee, Vincent was confident the nation’s voice was being heard.
“This is a show of force, and this is letting people know that we’re not going to stand for the things that Donald Trump and Mike Pence and the Republicans embody, which is anti-women, racist, anti-gay and just all around trying to take rights away from people,” she said.
While the protest remained peaceful, some time before the protest tow-away-zone signs were stolen from the Hobby Lobby parking lot, Gainesville Police officer Joseph Register said.
Hobby Lobby managers requested that any cars using their parking lot for the protest be towed, he said.
While participants were enthusiastic about the turnout of the event, many, like Sonal Desi, believe the fight is just beginning.
“I don’t think that change happens over night,” the 25-year-old UF environmental and global health graduate student said. “It never has in history and it likely never will, but I think that this event is a good start.”
Desi was diagnosed with congenital glaucoma and forced to have eight surgeries by the age of 14, she said, so she decided to protest Trump’s plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
She said if the act is repealed, when she turns 26 she will no longer have access to the insurance she needs.
Desi said the new administration needs to hear the combined voices of the people and re-evaluate its plans.
“I think that this is a good idea to help (Trump) to start thinking that maybe the other side has a point and that maybe he should listen to them,” she said.
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