Speakers offer fighting words for protesters before women’s march protesters hit the streets
This story was reported by Evan Allen, Eric Moskowitz, Laura Crimaldi, and Patricia Wen of the Globe staff and Globe correspondent Nicole Fleming. The story was written by Evan Allen.
Tens of thousands of marchers wearing pink hats, waving homemade signs, and chanting “This is what democracy looks like!” hit the streets of Boston Saturday afternoon to protest the election of President Trump.
After more than an hour of speeches from politicians and activists who called out fierce notes of resistance, the enormous crowd began streaming from Boston Common onto Charles Street, heading to Clarendon Street, where they turned around. So many people marched that it took more than an hour and a half to file out of the Common. City officials estimated that 175,000 attended the demonstration.
“Look at this, it just goes on and on!” said 92-year-old Sidney Topol, who leaned on his cane and watched with wonder and pride, a small American flag poking out from beneath his tweed jacket. “I have seen sports parades, but I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s unbelievable — peaceful, quiet, friendly, the camaraderie and love.”
The marchers stretched blocks deep: young girls wearing homemade pageant banners (“Ms. Fierce,” “Ms. Be Strong”), a man in a pink cowboy hat pushing a stroller, and a pregnant woman carrying a sign reading “Future Nasty Woman” pointing to her baby bump made their way up one side of the Commonwealth Mall and down the other. Ubiquitous hats with cat ears — called “pussy hats” in reference to the word Trump uttered unforgettably on a hot microphone — made the crowd look dotted with pink in aerial views.
The marchers stretched as far as the eye could see, 20 across, drumming and cheering and waving signs, and chanting “Women! United! Can never be defeated!”
The march began winding through the city following passionate entreaties to the crowd to fight — not just on Saturday, but for the next four years.
“We can whimper. We can whine. Or we can fight back!” yelled US Senator Elizabeth Warren, as marchers, many wearing pink hats and waving protest signs, screamed their approval. “We come here to stand shoulder to shoulder to make clear: We are here! We will not be silent! We will not play dead! We will fight for what we believe in!”
The Boston event was one of more than 600 marches being held nationwide and globally, on the day after Trump took office. A clear blue sky and unseasonably warm weather greeted Boston marchers, many of whom clutched homemade placards, including one that said: “Without immigrants Trump would have no wives.” One woman had written on her shirt: “Now you’ve pissed off Grandma.”
Speakers at the Boston kickoff included Warren, Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston, US Senator Edward J. Markey, and Attorney General Maura Healey. The crowd was so vast that many could hear only the applause.
Warren and other speakers who whipped up the crowd before the march conjured the core values of American democracy: respect for every human being, economic opportunity, and celebration of diversity. They called for raising the minimum wage, protecting unions, fighting climate change, shielding immigrant families from deportation, and making sure gay marriage is not undermined. Warren called on supporters to draw motivation from Trump’s inauguration Friday, a moment she said was burned in her mind.
Some of the loudest cheers for Warren came as she vowed to protect immigrants from deportation.
“We also believe that immigration makes us a stronger country,” she said. “We will not build a stupid wall and we will not tear millions of families apart.”
Speakers called on marchers to resist the new administration’s policies and to keep resisting long after the march ended, by running for office and lobbying their politicians.
Attorney General Maura Healey of Massachusetts said she had a message for Trump.
“The message from the people of Massachusetts is: We’ll see you in court!” she shouted. If Trump tries to cancel health care, caters to the demands of big oil and moneyed interests, or defunds Planned Parenthood, she said, Massachusetts will fight back.
Walsh proclaimed that Boston will be the first city in the country to battle Washington.
“We will take this fight from Boston Common to the Mall in Washington to let the president know he is supposed to represent all of us,” Walsh shouted, as the crowd roared back. “He doesn’t have to make America great again! America is great; it’s the greatest country in the world!”
By about 1 p.m., marchers began to hit the streets, though the crowd was so big that many had to wait before they could get out of the Common. The gathering was almost evenly split between men and women, and a diverse range of agendas was represented: climate change, antiracism, and Trump’s ties to Russia. On Twitter, Boston police thanked protesters for remaining peaceful.
Those at the protest spoke of the fears and hopes that brought them to the Common.
Wounded in Vietnam, with shrapnel in his knee, Ronald Johnson can’t stand for long stretches. The Dorchester resident parked himself on a bench beyond the Brewer Fountain, in his New England Patriots jacket, waving a “Refuse Fascism” sign and calling out words of encouragement to people streaming past.
“Long live the resistance, sister!” Johnson said, high-fiving a woman who passed by. He made his service known to the crowd, in a booming baritone: “Vietnam Veteran! . . . 82nd Airborne! . . . Charlie Company! . . . Proud to do it!”
Johnson, now 69 and retired from the Massachusetts Turnpike, enlisted out of Dorchester High School half a century ago. The new president makes his blood boil, he said.
“I fought for this country, got wounded for this country. Donald Trump never got wounded for this country. Someone had to give him a Purple Heart,” said Johnson, referencing an episode from the campaign. “I don’t think our new president cares two hoots about us.”
He took in the sight of the swelling crowd with pride. “I love our country. I love these people,” Johnson said.
Leah Cathers of Lowell, holding signs with her sister from New York, said she fears the country is stepping backward.
“I’m horrified by the fact that people have forgotten that these issues are about human beings, whether it’s the Muslim population or refugees,” she said.
Richard Widmer drove an hour and a half from Millers Falls with his 9-year-old son, Daniel, to attend the march.
“I thought as a father to a young man, this would be a good event to support all different kinds of people,” said Widmer.
As protesters headed into Boston Saturday morning, many reported long lines and delays on commuter rail and subway lines, and the MBTA said it was adding extra trains to accommodate the crowds.
The newly sworn-in president — who has infuriated critics with disparaging remarks about women, calls to ban Muslims from entering the United States, and a pledge to build a wall along the border with Mexico — sounded a note of unity on Facebook Friday after taking the oath of office.
“Together we will make America strong again,” he posted, drawing on his inaugural address. “We will make America wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again — and yes, together, we will make America great again!”
The Boston protesters were among millions who march in hundreds of locales across the nation and in cities around the world.
Demonstrations were also held around Massachusetts in Falmouth, Greenfield, Nantucket, Provincetown, Northampton, and Pittsfield.