WASHINGTON - Thousands of people are expected to gather for the Women’s March in downtown Washington and cities across the country Saturday to protest the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett and to build momentum to vote President Donald Trump out of the White House.
Nearly four years after an election that galvanized millions of protesters to march in cities nationwide - many of them for the first time - Women's March leaders hope to bring a final show of force before Nov. 3 with a rally in the nation's capital and in more than 429 marches across all 50 states. Organizers say more than 116,000 people have pledged to march or participate in other actions Saturday.
"Everything we've been doing has been leading up to this," said Caitlin Breedlove, deputy executive director of organizational advancement for the Women's March. "We're not only in resistance. We're actually fighting for what we need to build."
The march will take place days before Senate Republicans hold their first vote to confirm Barrett to replace liberal leader and feminist icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Barrett's nomination is expected to be approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is scheduled to vote on Thursday
At 11 a.m., an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 people are expected to gather on Freedom Plaza ahead of a noon rally urging women to vote and calling on Congress to suspend the Supreme Court confirmation process, according to a permit issued by the National Park Service on Wednesday. After the rally, participants plan to march southeast along Pennsylvania Avenue NW and then Constitution Avenue NW to the Supreme Court.
They will wrap around the U.S. Capitol and end the march on the Mall, where a smaller group of demonstrators will take part in a text-a-thon event to urge women across the country to vote. Thousands of Women's March volunteers have already texted more than 4 million women voters and aim to send 5 million texts in a single day on Saturday, according to the group.
At the same time, a counterprotest organized by a conservative women's organization will also take place at the Supreme Court. An "I'm With Her" rally in support of Barrett and organized by the Independent Women's Forum is scheduled for 1 p.m. to send the message that the Women's March participants "do not speak for all women." The counterprotest is expected to be smaller than the Women's March.
Several D.C. streets will prohibit parking, while others will close Saturday for the events, which start at 11 a.m. and are expected to end at about 5 p.m.
Each year since pink-hatted women first flooded the nation's capital the day after President Trump's inauguration in 2017, the Women's March has organized marches in January nationwide, promoting a list of policy demands and helping motivate women to run for office in record numbers. But the marches in recent years have drawn much smaller crowds than the first historic showing. The national organization has at times struggled to remain relevant, as scores of its initial attendees have redirected their attention toward other causes.
At the most recent Women's March in January, some attendees said they hoped they wouldn't need to march again, following the 2020 election.
But last month, "the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg reset the whole country," said Rachel O'Leary Carmona, executive director of the Women's March.
The group's organizers quickly planned hundreds of marches, both virtual and in-person, focused primarily on voting rights and the Supreme Court confirmation process.
"We didn't want to drain any energy from the election process," Breedlove said. "We actually wanted to help harness the power of the women we work with."
The march comes amid an economic recession that has fallen especially hard on women of color and mothers, a Supreme Court nomination that many fear threatens the reproductive rights of women, and a presidential election that could be decided in large part by women. Former vice president Joe Biden holds a 23-point advantage over Trump among female likely voters (59% to 36%), according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll. Meanwhile, Trump and Biden split men, with 48% each.
The gender gap is even bigger in the suburbs, where women favor Biden by 62% to 34%, according to the poll. Men in the suburbs lean toward Trump, with 54% supporting his reelection, while 43% back Biden.
The initial Women's March brought scores of these suburban women to the streets, including many who had never previously attended a protest. But concerns about coronavirus cases, which are rising again in many states, might lead to a much lower turnout this year, especially given the relatively older demographic of the Women's March base.
The average age of those who attended the first Women's March in 2017 was 43, according to Dana R. Fisher, a University of Maryland professor who studies protest movements. Meanwhile, the average age at the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer was more than 10 years younger.
Women's March leaders say they are hoping for a smaller crowd in the District because of social distancing concerns. Unlike previous years, organizers are discouraging participants from traveling to D.C. from states that are on the self-quarantine list and are not involved in organizing buses to come from other cities. Instead, they encourage supporters to attend local marches or to get involved with its "text-a-thon" efforts, O'Leary Carmona said. In D.C., LED screens will be placed around the area to encourage mask-wearing and social distancing.
The women marching Saturday have an almost singular focus on voting President Trump out of office. But even if Biden wins the election, Women's March organizers say they will continue to play a role in energizing women to get involved in activism and politics.
“The need for that is not going to end after this election . . . because it’s a correction that needs to happen in politics in the United States,” Breedlove said. "There needs to be some organization for women that says, ‘Come as you are. . . . There’s a place for you.’ "