One year later, thousands gather for second Boston women’s march
CAMBRIDGE — Toting signs with cheeky messages like “Grab ’Em by the Polls,” and “First, We Marched, Now We Run,” Greater Boston marked the anniversary of historic women’s marches against newly inaugurated President Trump with an encore display of defiance.
Up to 10,000 people converged on Cambridge Common Saturday for a rally that showcased transgender, disabled, African-American, Latino, and Muslim speakers, as diverse women gave voice to a range of issues. While the turnout was much smaller than last year — when the crowd on and around Boston Common swelled to more than 175,000 — some participants said it was impossible to match that exuberant outpouring.
“Last year was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and you’re not going to replicate that,” said Emily Armstrong, 38, of Milton. “I thought that what they did today was great. I’m glad they’re bringing in so many more voices.”
The Cambridge/Boston Women’s March 2018 was organized quickly by the January Coalition, comprised of local activist groups including Massachusetts Peace Action and March Forward Massachusetts, the group that organized last year’s march.
“We knew there was a desire for this,” said Zayda Ortiz, the event’s emcee. “There was a need for this.”
The rally was one of more than 200 scheduled across the country this weekend. A Sunday event in Las Vegas, planned by the organizers of last year’s women’s march, will launch a national registration tour aimed at targeting swing states in the midterm elections.
The events served as a revival of sorts for women who had been awed by their show of force last year and beaten down by the drumbeat of news in the months that followed.
On the way to the rally, participant Beth Molnar, 52, of Milton said she and her friend were discussing “how close to tears we always are. It’s really an emotional year. There’s so much sadness; there’s so much sharing of trauma.”
“It’s been one hell of a year, hasn’t it?” Nichole Mossalam, administrative director at Malden Islamic Center, asked the crowd.
She excoriated Trump and his aides for their views, calling his administration “a malignant cancer in the heart of our America” that has empowered “neo-Nazi white supremacists.”
State Representative Marjorie C. Decker, a Cambridge Democrat, told the crowd, “It would be easy to go to bed, right? Feeling really depressed feeling really despondent and hopeless? They’re counting on that, and we’re not going to do it.”
“I’m not deterred. I’m determined,” Decker said. “I’m not tired. I’m fired up. I’m part of the resistance.”
Attorney General Maura Healey, wearing a T-shirt that said “The Future is Female,” lauded the activists for “all that we have done together over the past year,” noting they stood up for immigrants, health care, and civil rights — and that women showed their determination to claim elected offices.
“We have power. We have a voice. And we’re going to use it,” she said. “And for those of you who aren’t on board, who can’t ever get on board . . . your time is up.”
Many marchers brought back their homemade pink “pussy hats,” an allusion to Trump’s crude boast about sexually assaulting women, a comment heard in a 2005 videotape that surfaced during the 2016 presidential campaign.
And the snarky signs were out in force.
“Women brought you in and women will vote you out,” one sign said.
“We are the granddaughters of the witches you weren’t able to burn,” another said.
“If you take away our birth control, we’ll just make more feminists,” one promised.
“Fatties against fascism.”
Many women said they were frustrated that they’re still fighting decades-old battles. Angela Quiterio, 18, said she had been catcalled Saturday morning while on her way to get breakfast before the march. “It makes me very sad that the issues we are having still are happening,” she said, “but a place like this makes me feel empowered.”
Some women who had marched elsewhere last year were happy to reconvene in Cambridge.
“It’s partly frustrating that we have to be out here again. But it’s also very inspiring to see all these people coming together,” said Kathy Dowdell, 62, of Canton.
“I really think there’s even more reason for us to be out in force this year,” said Deborah McLellan, 59, of Jamaica Plain, who pointed to the government shutdown in Washington and blamed politicians for “holding immigrants hostage, holding children’s health care hostage, let alone women’s rights. It’s really about all people’s rights.”
“I used to think that one voice didn’t matter, whether I show up or not, but I was wrong and I learned that last year,” said Jinda Mulvey of Norwell, who was there with her 15-year-old daughter and was carrying a sign that read: “Reclaiming our time, our voices, our rights, our futures, our sanity.”
The event emphasized respect, dignity, and full equality for all people, with speakers representing not just women from minority groups but also advocates for the incarcerated and for those who have lost family members to violence.
Rhoda Gibson, a disability rights advocate, told the crowd that in the six years she has used a wheelchair, she has been treated entirely differently by strangers.
“We are women, just as all the women here, and we have the right to be here as well,” Gibson said. “So please respect us because we are no longer going to be put out of sight, out of mind, in institutions. You’re going to see us — no matter what disability we have — out here fighting with you.”
Alex Burger-Roy, 19, a transgender student at Northeastern University, told the crowd she hadn’t gone to the women’s march last year because she felt excluded by the “vocal minority of people who want to call themselves feminists but do not speak up for all women.”
But she praised the “intersectionality” of this year’s event.
“Just by existing, trans women like myself defy societal expectations of gender,” she said. “This doesn’t only help us. It helps all of you.“
“We all need to stand together as women and fight for the rights of all women.”