Three years after 50,000 pink-hatted, sign-wielding, enraged protesters converged in solidarity on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway following the inauguration of President Donald Trump, Philadelphia will host its fourth Women’s March on Saturday.
And in 2020, the year of a critical presidential race and a century after American women won the right to vote, one thing is top-of-mind for organizers: the coming election.
Themed “The Year of the Woman,” this year’s march centers on “making sure that all women can make a change,” said Women’s March on Philadelphia organizer Deja Lynn Alvarez.
“Coming together like this is more important now than ever,” said Alvarez, a longtime public health and LGBTQ activist. “We’re on the brink of war at this point, we’re a country that’s literally turned in on itself. ... Women, we can turn the tide here. We can make the difference.”
Unlike the separately run national Women’s March in Washington, the Philadelphia event will highlight local issues “that may not get discussed as much,” such as human trafficking, sexual assault, immigrant rights, and equal pay, Alvarez said.
The march will begin at 10 a.m. at Logan Circle, parading along the Ben Franklin Parkway toward the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Unlike last year, when two women’s marches hosted by different groups took place on the same day, there will be just one event in Philly. The march will end at 12:30 p.m., with a shortened program to sustain interest on what’s expected to be a frigid and snowy day, Alvarez said.
A “Get Out the Vote” bus will also be present to register voters.
The 2020 speaker list features three women elected to Congress following Trump’s election: Mary Gay Scanlon, Madeleine Dean, and Chrissy Houlahan. Local activists such as Lorraine Ruppert of Pennsylvania Climate Strike, India Fenner of the Black Women’s March, and community organizer Tyunique Nelson will also speak alongside Working Families Party Councilmember Kendra Brooks, State Rep. Donna Bullock, and Mayor Jim Kenney.
A day out from the march, the all-volunteer group continues to seek donations, aiming to raise $20,000 to cover permits, vendors, port-a-potties, and more for the 2020 event.
The Women’s March movement got its start in 2017, one day after Trump’s inauguration and months before the #MeToo campaign erupted, when millions of women across America and the world took to the streets in rage and solidarity, protesting the presidency and the patriarchy. The Women’s March on Washington is believed to be the largest single-day protest in U.S. history.
And though marches nationwide are expected to be smaller this year, the protests and “shows of solidarity by large groups of people are still very visually effective,” said Dawn Teele, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania. Around 1,000 people have indicated on Facebook that they’re attending the Philadelphia march.
Mobilizing and creating policy change in a movement like the Women’s March may prove more difficult, Teele said, noting that it’s “nearly impossible to convert to a voting bloc for power because of the differences among women,” including race and economic standing.
Still, she said, there’s pleasure in protest participation.
“It’s a cathartic show of solidarity rather than a solid movement with a specific end,” Teele said.
The 2020 election may prove positive for this year’s Women’s Marches, said Pamela Oliver, a professor emerita of sociology at the University of Wisconsin.
“Street protests are difficult to maintain. People get tired, especially if it seems like they are losing,” Oliver wrote in an email. “With the level of threat in the present administration, there is a high level of mobilization across a broad spectrum of political groups, and many different ideas about the best ways to keep the enthusiasm up, and promote what people view as positive social change.”
The future of the Women’s March on Philadelphia, Alvarez said, “hinges on what happens in this next election.”
But for now, she’ll bundle up and take to the streets Saturday, advocating for the women of Philadelphia and beyond.
“We can change what’s going on in this country,” Alvarez said. “We have the power, now we need to seize it.”
Closed from 8 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday:
Benjamin Franklin Parkway between 18th Street and 20th Street (including Logan Circle)
19th Street between Race Street and Vine Street
Race Street between 20th Street and Logan Circle
Closed from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday:
Benjamin Franklin Parkway between 22nd Street and 24th Street
Spring Garden Street from Pennsylvania Avenue to Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Kelly Drive (outbound) from Benjamin Franklin Parkway to Fairmount Avenue
Kelly Drive (inbound) from 25th Street to Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Martin Luther King Jr. Drive between Eakins Oval and Sweetbriar Drive
Parking will be restricted from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday on the following streets:
20th Street from Race Street to Benjamin Franklin Parkway (east side of the street)
Benjamin Franklin Parkway from 16th Street to 20th Street
19th Street from Cherry Street to Vine Street
18th Street from Arch Street to Vine Street
17th Street from Race Street to Arch Street
Cherry Street from 16th Street to 17th Street
Benjamin Franklin Parkway from 20th Street to Eakins Oval (all lanes)
21st Street from Pennsylvania Avenue to Race Street
22nd Street from Pennsylvania Avenue to Winter Street
Spring Garden Street from 21st Street to 23rd Street (north side of the street)
Winter Street from 20th Street to 21st Street
John F. Kennedy Boulevard from Broad Street to 16th Street (north side of the street)
SEPTA Bus Routes 2, 7, 32, 33, 38, 43, 48, and 49 will be detoured from their normal routes through the Benjamin Franklin Parkway area from 8 a.m. on Saturday through about 3 p.m.