Women in U.S. vow to 'fight and fight and fight' against Trump

Protesters who rallied in Washington, D.C., for International Women's Day on Wednesday said this year's event had a "feeling of urgency" because of U.S. President Donald Trump's policies.

Protesters rally outside the White House to demand president reverse 'anti-choice' policies

An activist attends a demonstration outside the White House on International Women's Day, Wednesday, March 8, 2017. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Protesters who rallied in Washington, D.C., for International Women's Day Wednesday said this year's event was different.

"It absolutely has a feeling of urgency," said Sarah Leonard. "There has not been a women's day like this in the United States in years."

The demonstrators first gathered at Freedom Plaza before marching a few blocks to Lafayette Park, across from the White House, where they demanded U.S. President Donald Trump reverse policies they say threaten their freedoms and put women around the world at risk.

The rally was one of many events held across the U.S. to mark International Women's Day. Large gatherings were also held in Los Angeles and New York and cities in between.

"It's important that we are organized and we show unified opposition to these anti-choice and dangerous attacks on women's health care," said Anne Bailey, a field organizer with the pro-choice group NARAL, one of organizers of the D.C. protest.

Danielle, who did not want to give her surname, said she was the Washington, D.C., rally on International Women's Day to protest U.S. President Donald Trump and his policies. (Meagan Fitzpatrick/CBC News)

A woman named Danielle, who did not want to give her surname, made her point by wearing duct tape over her mouth and a pair of gloves taped to her bare breasts, with letters stuck on her torso spelling out "Hands off my body!"

The protesters, including some men, were concerned about access to abortion for women abroad and at home.

"There is no reason that women should not have control over their own bodies," said Austin Barry.

Trump tweets to mark Women's Day

Earlier in the day, Trump wrote on Twitter that he has "tremendous respect for women and the many roles they serve that are vital to the fabric of our society and our economy."

The White House issued a statement that said the administration is committed to empowering women in the U.S. and around the world. It noted the joint council on women in business that the U.S. and Canada announced when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Washington last month.
Jjana Valentiner took the day off work on International Women's Day, heeding the call for women to go on strike, and attended a rally outside the White House. (Meagan Fitzpatrick/CBC News)

Demonstrators rejected the notion that Trump respects women and doubted his commitment to their advancement.

"I came out because I live in D.C. and this has become the norm for us right now," said Jjana Valentiner. "There are so many alarming things happening at such a fast rate that we can't stay home." 

Momentum still going

Organizers called for "A Day Without a Woman." Women were encouraged to boycott paid and unpaid work and to avoid making purchases for the day other than at women-owned businesses.

The idea was to highlight how vital women are to the economy and labour force, and to draw attention to issues such as pay equity and discriminatory hiring practices.

It would be hard to measure how many women went on strike across the U.S., but the school board in Alexandria, Va., just across the Potomac River from Washington, cancelled classes because so many women requested the day off. 

That's why Mike Stemle was at the rally in Washington with his two sons. The single father said instead of getting a babysitter, he took a day off work to give Badger, 6, and Oliver, 9, a real-life lesson outside the classroom.

"I have white male children in the United States — unfair is not really a thing they get to see a lot of," Stemle said. "It seemed like a good idea to have them come and see what unfair really looks like for other people, and how people speak out against it."

Ashley Barnes was given the day off work by her employer as part of a campaign for women to go on strike for International Women's Day. (Meagan Fitzpatrick/CBC News)

Trump unites women in protest

The Women's March on Washington, held the day after Trump's inauguration, was considered a massive success, bringing out millions of women in the U.S. capital, and across the U.S. and the world, including in Canada. But it raised questions about whether the momentum and energy felt that day would be sustained.

Women who were at the White House Wednesday, some of whom had recycled their signs from the Women's March, had no doubts about the movement continuing.

"The one thing I do appreciate about this new administration is it has galvanized people, it's activated people in a way that hasn't happened in years," said Valentiner, who gave up a day's pay to be at the rally. "I think it's going to continue. He set off an avalanche."

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi speaks during on Capitol Hill in Washington Wednesday, for International Women's Day. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

Amy Hershey called the Women's March "one of the most perfect, beautiful days of all of our lives," and said "absolutely" the resistance to Trump witnessed that day remains strong.

"We are going to fight and fight and fight," she said.

Leonard, a member of the organizing committee for the American branch of the International Women's Strike, said there is the potential for "protest fatigue," but so far she doesn't see it.

Leonard said that even before Trump came along women were concerned about reproductive rights, an eroding of social safety net programs and workers' rights, and that the new president has deepened those worries.

"Women have felt a growing burden over time, and now that it's embodied in someone as odious as Trump really feel like they are inspired to take on a specific enemy and get together," she told CBC News by phone, on her way to a protest in New York City.

Many women who've never been to a protest before now feel compelled to speak out against Trump. Leonard said that all of these newly politically active women have linked up with existing ones at their local levels.

There are organizations that have been working on women's issues for years and they were ready to receive the momentum, she said.

About the Author

Meagan Fitzpatrick

Reporter

Meagan Fitzpatrick is a multi-platform reporter with CBC in Toronto. She previously worked in CBC's Washington bureau and covered the 2016 election. Prior to heading south of the border Meagan worked in CBC's Parliament Hill bureau. She has also reported for CBC from Hong Kong. Follow her on Twitter @fitzpatrick_m

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