WASHINGTON – Several hundred thousand people from across the country descended on Washington Saturday to protest Donald Trump just hours into his presidency, donning bright pink hats and carrying a dizzying array of political signs – in a celebrity-studded march that put the nation’s lingering divisions on full display despite the 45th president’s appeal a day earlier for unity.
The protesters, most of whom were women, were largely peaceful by comparison with the scattered bands of rioters who wreaked havoc on parts of D.C. during Friday’s inauguration. This crowd was far larger and more organized.
But the march grew more chaotic as the day went on and protesters moved from the National Mall into the streets. And despite indications from some organizers last week that the demonstration was not defined as “anti-Trump,” it was in every respect a march against the new president -- kicking off as he attended a National Prayer Service after waking up in the White House for the first time.
“A platform of hate and division assumed power yesterday,” actress America Ferrera told the crowd Saturday morning on the National Mall. “But the president is not America. We are America.”
Other celebrities including Madonna and Michael Moore stirred up the crowd, with Madonna making perhaps the most inflammatory comments. In profanity-laced remarks, the singer said she had “thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House” but knows “this won’t change anything.”
While called the Women's March on Washington, the protest attracted families of men, women and children mostly sporting pro-women and anti-Trump messages. Hundreds of “sister marches” were held in other cities across the U.S. and internationally.
“Of course this is an anti-Trump march,” a local ambassador for the D.C. march, who declined to give his name, said as he directed the crowds toward the rally. “Sure, of course it’s for rights, but it’s really against Trump.”
Another protester called Trump a “terrible president,” though he has only had the keys to the Oval Office for one day.
SLIDESHOW: WOMEN'S MARCH ON WASHINGTON
In his inaugural address Friday, Trump spoke in stark terms about America's problems but also called for a "new national pride" to heal divisions. Saturday's march showed protesters united -- only in opposition to the new president, on the grounds where just 24 hours earlier, Trump supporters cheered their candidate’s ascension to power.
Women wearing “pussy-hats” -- hand-knit pointy-eared pink winter headgear -- held posters with derogatory messages and phrases bashing the president and filled the National Mall.
Officials estimated a crowd of 500,000 people, which is more than double what march organizers had predicted. One D.C. official told the Associated Press that the massive turnout also forced organizers to revise plans to march on the White House, and instead head to the nearby ellipse.
Children at times held political messages alongside their parents. One family pushed their toddler son through the crowds in a stroller, wearing a sign that read “Who will have a bigger tantrum? Trump or me?”
The signs touched on a range of other issues, including statements against controversial oil pipelines, drone warfare, voter ID laws and more.
The march, while mostly peaceful, did see isolated incidents, with some women vandalizing portable restrooms designated for the inauguration ceremonies by bashing the locks off with bricks, and some screaming in the faces of a group of people holding signs with Christian messages.
“We’re not here against Trump, but we’re not here for him either,” one of the sign-holders said. “We just want to share that God demonstrated his love towards everyone, regardless of what you believe in.”
March organizers also had uninvited the group “New Wave Feminists,” which initially co-sponsored the event, after finding out that the group held a pro-life stance.
“It’s a very specific type of diversity, which does not include everyone,” Founder and President of New Wave Feminists Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa said on “Fox & Friends” Saturday morning. She said despite the lack of invitation, her group still planned to march. “Any time women come together, exciting things happen – so we definitely wanted to be there with the pro-life contingent.”
The movement spread far beyond Washington, as more than 600 “sister marches” were planned spanning as far abroad as Myanmar and Australia. In Prague, hundreds gathered in freezing weather; in Copenhagen and Sydney, thousands marched.
The D.C. march attracted celebrity participants who took a lead role in pumping up the crowd -- like Ashley Judd, who spoke at a morning rally, and Ferrera, who led the artist contingent scheduling appearances and performances from singers Cher and Katy Perry, comedian Amy Schumer, and actresses Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Debra Messing and Patricia Arquette.
A day after the inaugural ceremonies, though, Trump supporters were still in town and keeping a presence. Overlooking the National Mall on Saturday were members of the pro-Trump group Bikers for Trump.
“I admire a group of like-minded people coming together to march and to demonstrate,” founder Chris Cox said. “But there are a lot of children out there and a lot of the signs are certainly inappropriate – I think maybe they should be a little more sensitive to some of their members.”
Cox said his group, whose message is to support Trump’s agenda regarding Islamic extremism, support for veterans, and illegal immigration, had several speakers scheduled, but was running late due to the congestion from the Women’s March. The list included bishops and two women whose children were killed by illegal immigrants.
Cox condemned the violence that broke out a day earlier.
“They say one thing, and preach and act on another and we don’t condone violence,” Cox told said of his group. “We’re the blue-collar, working guy, and we have a lot to lose – we’re not looking for a fight, but hey, we’re not ones to back down from one either.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.