Women's March in LA 2018

On Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, a day ahead of the one year anniversary of The Women’s March on Washington, thousands of Angelenos gathered at Pershing Square to voice their concerns regarding a multitude of political issues centered around human rights, gender equality, and racial discrimination. Participants showed up with family and friends in tow, carrying signs inscribed with their messages. Among them four key issues dominate the landscape-- #metoo, #timesup, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and getting supporters to the polls during the 2018 midterm election. 

The Women’s March Los Angeles Foundation attracted counter-protesters who also made their way to Pershing Square. Five people with pro-life signs exercised their right to free speech as eight Women's March attendees held hands to form a line in front of the smaller group of five. Paulla Hardie, one of the eight people holding hands, stated that the line was formed in order to prevent interaction between the two opposing groups. When asked about the event, Hardie stated, “I think it’s about time this movement is happening and we’re not stopping, we’re just starting to gear up.”

The Saturday morning rally continued with the crowd exceeding tens of thousands beginning to march at 10 AM from Pershing Square towards Grand Park and City Hall, with the colorful sea of people and signs filling the streets of downtown Los Angeles. The event attracted not only women but men as well. Lawrence Ziese was one of those men in attendance. When asked why he showed up to the women’s march, Ziese said, "I think that all oppression is linked to the same power structure whether it is misogyny, racism, [or] people against homosexuals…as a white male or the fact that I look like a white male it’s my obligation...to learn to see the power in our privilege and know when to step back and listen. I’m here to listen."

The crowd arrived at the marches ending point, filling Grand Park, awaiting the speaker portion of the event at approximately 11 AM. Toni Scruggs rose to the stage set up facing away from City Hall towards Grand Park. She began to sing “Respect”, originally performed by Aretha Franklin, to the growing audience.

Amidst the stories being told on stage to the crowd of about 600,000, ten Trump supporters stood on the corner of South Spring St. and West 1st St.. Police tape surrounded them with police officers lining the outside of the tape in order to prevent any potential violence. On duty Captain Scott Harrelson, of the Los Angeles Police Department, stood around the corner from the Trump supporters. When asked about the event from a police officer’s perspective he stated, “Obviously [there are] some factions that don’t agree, but they’re being very civil about it, it’s a nice day.”

One of the Trump supporters, Arthur Schaper, attended the event to counter-protest the march, “I’m here celebrating our president, counter-protesting this ridiculous women’s march.” When asked about the issue of sexual assault in The United States of America, Schaper responded by stating, “President Trump has helped to highlight this issue in fact.” Between yelling at the march attendees, he then continued to say, “I can’t think of a president who has been more pro-women than Donald Trump has.” 

Just a few blocks from the crowd of attendees, mothers and girls listen to the painful but empowering story of a rape victim who speaks from behind a screen that projects nothing but her talking lips. To preserve anonymity marchers were encouraged to tell their stories from a private tent where a camera broadcasts only the speakers lips on to a giant screen in front of a fuzzy pink outdoor lounge. Women of diverse age, ethnicity, and sexual orientation listened in attentive silence to each story. The speakers often choke up during the retelling of their ordeal and healing process. There were moments of silence as the audience waits patiently for the speakers to collect themselves. Carrie LaLonde, who was present with her 11-year-old daughter Blake Burrell, says she believes learning to speak up quickly when harassed is an important safety tool she wants to teach her daughter. Attendees not comfortable with public speaking were invited to write a message on a card and display it anonymously on a story wall.

As the event ended at 3 PM, Deena Katz, a co-executive director of the Women’s March Los Angeles Foundation, stood backstage of the event reminiscing back to the march that occurred the previous year. Katz stated, “Unfortunately, the year 2017, a lot of the things that we thought would happen did. A lot of groups are marginalized, but the difference in emotion this year is where last year we kind of had to hold hands and just think we could get through this together. This year we have the power.” 

This year's Women's March in Los Angeles concluded with the crowd of 600,000 dispersing throughout downtown Los Angeles from Grand Park. After 3 PM, LAPD officers began to notify pedestrians of streets beginning to open back up again. Following the ending of this event, Deena Katz stated that the WMLA Foundation plans to hold voter education and voter registration events throughout the year.