Controversy and the government shutdown greeted marchers who gathered in the Washington cold Saturday for the third annual national Women’s March.
The event, which kicked off near Freedom Plaza blocks from the White House, drew thousands, a number far fewer than the hundreds of thousands who descended on the National Mall for the first Women’s March, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017.
A National Park permit issued Thursday anticipated a crowd of 10,000, The Washington Post reported. Weeks ago organizers anticipated a crowd of several hundred thousand in a permit application.
Sister marches in other cities included one in New York City. Bronx Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke at that march. She was also expected to attend a separate “Women’s Unity Rally” in downtown Manhattan.
“Last year we brought the power to the polls, and this year we need to make sure that we translate that power into policy,” Ocasio-Cortez said at the New York Women's March in Columbus Circle. “That means we will not let anyone take our rights away - in fact we will expand them.”
She told the crowd it also meant working to pass an Equal Rights Amendment.
This year’s Women’s March has been hurt by accusations of anti-Semitism that have trailed the group’s organizers. Two of them, Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian activist who has embraced the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, and co-President Tamika Mallory, have been criticized over their ties to Nation of Islam firebrand Louis Farrakhan.
Mallory refused recently to condemn Farrakhan for incendiary remarks about Jews during a speech in February that she attended.
As a result, the Democratic National Committee bowed out as a Women’s March sponsor.
The original plan for Saturday called for gathering on the National Mall, but with snow and freezing rain in the forecast and the National Park Service no longer plowing the snow because of the shutdown, the march’s location and route was altered this week to start at Freedom Plaza and march down Pennsylvania Avenue past the Trump International Hotel.
Near Freedom Plaza, protesters carried singed that were playful and pointed, including “Wonder Woman in a pink pussy hat,” “Our Rights Are Real,” and “Protect Women,” according to the Post.
A small group of counter-protesters, surrounded by D.C. police, marched toward Trump International Hotel with signs that said “America you need to bless God,” “Abortion is murder” and “Islam is a religion of blood and murder,” the paper reported.
Shannon Lydon, a recent Boston College grad, told NBC News that she was excited to be attending the Women’s March in Washington.
"It’s such a movement, and it’s so empowering to be around so many people who are celebrating women and fighting for change," she said.