On a chilly Monday afternoon in New York City, more than 100 women (and a few men) gathered on the stretch of Fifth Avenue right outside Trump Tower, shouting, “My body! My choice!”
The group had marched from Columbus Circle, along Central Park South, past groups of tourists and the doormen posted at gilded apartment buildings and clubs, carrying signs that read, “Not my president” and “Patriotic electors! Prevent our ruin!” among others.
Some women had taken time off work and school to attend the protest. Maki Obara, 37, and Laura Kimsey, 32, are both designers who left their office to be at the protest Monday afternoon.
“I was scared because I am a woman of color, I am an immigrant,” Obara told me. “I don’t want any other immigrants to be threatened or deported for no reason. A lot of us have earned the right to live here and I don’t want that taken away from us.”
The demonstrators were marching to protest threats to women’s rights and immigrants from the incoming Donald Trump administration (including reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, and anti-discrimination protections). But they’re also protesting the election of Trump himself, given his record of sexist behavior throughout the campaign and before.
Another protester, Pam Rogers, 41, was with her children, Portia, 2, and Peter, 7.
“I think being a mom right now is really difficult with this kind of role model in the highest office of power in America right now. I’m really hoping we can do something to stop him from being in charge,” she said. “If he is definitely going to be our president, he has to hear us and he definitely can’t speak the way he did during the campaign. He can’t say terrible racist things, he can’t treat women like they’re not equal. It’s not OK.”
The scene in New York City was echoed across the country, with groups of protesters marching under the banner of a movement they’re calling “Women and Allies” in 30 different locations as wide-ranging as Salt Lake City, Oakland, and Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
Isabella Gutierrez, 21, is the organizer of the protest in New York City. She’s a screenwriting student at New York University and the daughter of Latinx immigrants.
“We are going to protect women’s rights and the rights of all vulnerable groups that might come under threat by any legislation that they might try to pass. We want to mobilize as many people as possible and show our collective power as citizens and kind of just show them that we’re watching,” she said.
She told me she’s been inspired by connecting with older women who have been activists for women’s rights and civil rights for decades before.
Connecticut-based Anne Massaro, 68, is one of those women. She brought people in different cities together in the days following the election, connecting with women around the country through Facebook groups. Massaro says that as she watched the election results come in on November 8, she told me, she first felt disbelief, before remembering that as a former civil rights activist, she knows exactly how to channel her political dissent.
“I was really devastated and then I just picked myself up and said, ‘I know how to do this. I’m not a victim. I know how to do this,'” she said. “So I started getting on various sites that people were posting on… One thing I learned from the amazing Flo Kennedy, one of her favorite expressions was, ‘Don’t agonize, organize.’”
“I don’t want any other immigrants to be threatened or deported for no reason. A lot of us have earned the right to live here and I don’t want that taken away from us.”- Maki Obara
The protest, a week before the electoral college cast their votes to confirm Trump’s win, is aimed partly at asking those electors to reject Trump on the grounds that his presidency would be damaging to the American public.
Today’s marches aren’t connected to the demonstration that’s planned in Washington, DC, on January 20, the day that Trump will be inaugurated. But organizers say they were inspired by that plan to use today as an opportunity for woman (and their allies) to protest in their own cities, and before the electoral college has voted. Organizers called for women who couldn’t leave work today to take part to protest by means of an all-day spending boycott.
Massaro, the activist, is also a survivor of sexual assault, and says it’s been triggering for her to watch a man who’s been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment and assault rise to the most powerful office in America and become a world leader.
“We are going to stand together in solidarity so no woman in this country feels alone,” Massaro told me. “Secondly, we are going to tell the electoral college that we expect them to do the right thing by the American people and vote him out…And the third message is, we will not be bullied.”