The weather was uninviting. The crowds perhaps not as robust as in previous years.
But the fourth annual Women’s March on Philadelphia on Saturday, drawing thousands to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, was characteristically enthusiastic, determined, and supportive in a year where again Donald Trump was the focus — this time whether or not he’ll be reelected in November. The first Women’s March, in 2017, was held a day after his inauguration.
Yet, presidential politics was not the only motivation for those who walked Saturday from Logan Circle to the Art Museum on a frigid, snowy morning that rendered ink pens useless and cell phones unreliable.
Organizers said this year’s march — its theme was “The Year of the Woman” — was an opportunity to reflect on historic achievements in recent elections and gear up for what supporters see as vital tasks ahead for women. Yes, the presidential race, but also the future makeup of the Supreme Court, playing a larger role in government, and pressing for social and criminal justice reforms, they said.
“It’s time that we stop taking a backseat and run for office,” said march organizer and LGBTQ activist Deja Lynn Alvarez.
Pennsylvania has yet to elect its first female governor or U.S. senator, and the Pennsylvania General Assembly remains overwhelmingly male.
Alvarez said marchers may have different priorities — violence against women and #MeToo, climate change, equal pay, LGBTQ acceptance, abortion rights, for instance — but they can still unite.
“We have to stop letting our individual passions and beliefs divide us," she said. "I may not totally agree with you on everything, but I need to be open to listening to you.”
LaToia Horace, 25, from Woodbury, Gloucester County, braved temperatures in the low 20s for her first Women’s March to push for equal rights.
“Stop dictating our bodies,” she said. “It’s a great time to be a woman. This is just the year to not worry about having a seat at the table and to make our own.”
Said her friend Nakera Pierce, 25, also from Woodbury: "There’s feminism and there’s minority feminism. We’re black and we’re women too. We’re fighting for equality on both fronts.”
Nathalie Darden, who said she also is from South Jersey but would not say where, kept warm in a knitted pink hat — the garb of the first Women’s March that was not nearly as ubiquitous this year.
“I’m here for equal rights for women. Equal rights for the LGBT community is flip-flopping right now. And we’re here for equal pay,” she said. “I worked as a civil engineer and I know I wasn’t making the same pay then.”
With her was friend Jennifer Pugliese, who said the march raises important awareness to the high rate of sexual assaults.
“That seems to be the last frontier of stigma. People don’t talk about it,” Pugliese said.
Megan Meyers, 20, made the trip from Reading with two friends. Together they crafted signs in support of no fewer than a dozen issues, from climate change to protecting immigrants. The Penn State student said ballooning college debt is another concern.
Her friend Emma Scalese, 20, also from Reading, is eager to have more say. “I couldn’t vote in the last [presidential] election, but I volunteered. I was so upset,” she said. “I plan to this time.”
Many in the crowd weren’t willing or ready to name their candidate, but the consensus was to limit Trump to one term.
Allyson Ross, a resident of Paoli attending her third Women’s March, said she is “terrified” about the prospect of Trump being reelected.
“I can’t even fathom four more years of this,” she said.
On her list of concerns is racism, misogyny, climate change, education, and student debt.
Libby Madarasz, 56, of Exton, said the significance of this year’s presidential election cannot be overstated.
“I think it’s the most important election of our lifetime," she said. "Everyone said give him a chance and maybe he’ll rise to the level. But he hasn’t. It’s all about corporate profits with him.”
For some, even the election is too long to wait for change. Dozens in the crowd held up signs calling for a fair impeachment trial.
“I’d like to see justice at the impeachment inquiry,” said Lisa Banwell, who lives in Howell, N.J. “I’d like to see justice served.”
As marchers reached the Art Museum, they heard speeches from a variety of guests, among them Mayor Jim Kenney.
Last month, Kenney selected Danielle Outlaw, the police chief of Portland, Ore., as Philadelphia’s new police commissioner from a list of dozens of candidates. She will be the first African American woman in that job.
Kenney said even the negative events he’s witnessed under Trump have silver linings. He cited the elections of local Democrats Madeleine Dean, Chrissy Houlahan, and Mary Gay Scanlon to Congress, who also attended the march.
Dean got a roar out of the chilled crowd when she spoke of how they’ve made a difference.