WASHINGTON — Organizers of the Women’s March on Washington had to change the plans for their formal march, due to the extremely large turnout on Saturday.
Chris Geldart, director of the District of Columbia’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, initially said organizers had cancelled the march portion of the day’s events due to the large size of the crowd.
But during the rally, organizers instructed marchers to proceed on a different, route, heading to north to Constitution Avenue, marching toward the Washington Monument, and ending at the Ellipse.
Thousands flocked to the nation’s capital for the event, which was intended to advocate for civil rights. There were early signs that the crowds in Washington could top those that gathered for Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday. City officials said organizers of the Women’s March on Washington more than doubled their turnout estimate to 500,000 as crowds began swelling and subways into the city became clogged with participants.
Attendees, who filled the streets branching off the rally point of Independence Avenue and Third Street NW, brandished signs with messages such as “Women won’t back down” and “Less fear more love,” and decried Trump’s stand on such issues as abortion, health care and LGBT tolerance. The message reverberated at demonstrations around the globe, from Paris and Berlin to Sydney and beyond.
“We march today for the moral core of this nation, against which our new president is waging a war,” actress America Ferrera told the Washington crowd. “Our dignity, our character, our rights have all been under attack and a platform of hate and division assumed power yesterday. But the president is not America. … We are America and we are here to stay.”
Starting early, major arteries were clogged by cars and rail stations across region were reportedly jammed-packed with riders long after the rally was set to begin at 10 a.m. At that time, Wiehle, Fort Totten, Rockville, Rhode Island, East Falls Church, Greenbelt, Glenmont, Vienna, New Carrollton and Forest Glen Metro stations were at capacity.
By 11 a.m. WTOP reporter Max Smith said Metro was reporting more than 275,000 riders so far — eight times more than a normal Saturday and 50,000 shy of President Obama’s second inauguration. There were 193,000 Metro trips as of 11 a.m. Friday, the day of Trump’s presidential inauguration.
MARC train officials said they nearly quadrupled normal capacity in anticipation of additional crowds including having extra cars and a train set in reserve. As of around 10:30 a.m., MARC ran an extra four trains. Penn Station crowds finally cleared around 11:30 a.m.
— Max Smith (@amaxsmith) January 21, 2017
— Kidspud (@Kidspud) January 21, 2017
After the rally in which dozens of activists and lawmakers were expected to take the stage, participants planned to march down Independence Avenue, along the National Mall starting sometime after 1:15 p.m..
The event coincides during the inauguration weekend. Donald Trump, the victor in an election cycle that organizers say was characterized by rhetoric that “insulted, demonized and threatened” women of all backgrounds, was officially sworn in as president on Friday.
Similar marches have been planned around the world as a show of solidarity.
As of noon, Michael Moore, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, actress Ashley Judd, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, and Gloria Steinem had roused the crowd. Angela Davis, Janelle Monae, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Angelique Kidjo were also featured speakers.
There were many jabs at newly inaugurated Trump and what many were calling the new reality of his administration.
Steinem described the worldwide mobilization of women as “the upside of the downside: This is an outpouring of energy and democracy like I have never seen in my very long life.”
“Sometimes we must put our bodies where our beliefs are,” she told the Washington crowd, labeling Trump an “impossible president.”
Several streets will be closed throughout the day because of the event and Metro will be providing extended service to accommodate the crowds, though WMATA announced Friday that the Federal Triangle Metro station would be closed Saturday “due to security and logistical considerations.”
WTOP’s Max Smith, Kelley Vlahos, Tiffany Arnold and Brian Drew, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.