Women’s Marches took place all across the country on Saturday (Jan. 21), bringing out record crowds in the name of equality. Washington, D.C., garnered the main spotlight but the March in Los Angeles may have been just as significant in terms of garnering attention through star power and sheer numbers.
In addition to what the organizers estimate was a turn out of more than 750,000 people, the event attracted a powerhouse lineup of speakers and performers. Barbra Streisand, Jane Fonda, Natalie Portman, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Laverne Cox, Lily Tomlin, Kerry Washington, Jamie Lee Curtis, and many more spoke of the need to protect women’s rights in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency.
Additionally, an array of music artists made their statements through song including Rufus Wainwright, Regina Spektor, Jackson Browne, Jenifer Lewis, Brandy, and an all-star band featuring Juliette Lewis, U2’s the Edge, The Go-Go’s Abby Travis, and Rage Against the Machine’s Brad Wilk, who did a stirring take on “Pride (In the Name of Love).” Helen Reddy also did an acapella version of “I Am Woman.”
The march started at Pershing Square in downtown L.A. around 9 a.m., then proceeded to slowly move throughout the surrounding streets to City Hall, eventually making its way to Broadway and 6th St., where performers and speakers were gathered. Marchers (many of them in bright pink knit hats referencing Trump’s now infamous words about women’s body parts to Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush) carried countless banners and signs with catchy, clever and often provocative slogans. The massive, colorful crowds were a vibrant site, but the sounds echoing through the city were also rousing. The crowds, filled not just with women, but men and children as well, brought drums, horns, tambourines, bullhorns and their voices, shouting chants like, “We need a leader, not a tweeter!” and “This is what democracy looks like.”
The sentiments of frustration and the need to fight President Trump’s policies were more thoroughly articulated by Streisand, who was the first to speak on the Broadway stage. After Wainwright offered a powerful version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” he introduced the iconic singer and actress.
“Trump’s cabinet choices can’t wait to reverse the progress of our last eight years,” she said. “They are determined to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides health care to the women who need it most and that’s why we’re here today!”
Though Women’s March organizers had stated that it wasn’t specifically an anti-Trump march, the speakers made it pretty clear that speaking out against our new president was in fact the point.
“We must not legitimize him,” Fonda said fervently. “We know what he is up to… taking away our rights and our freedoms and our programs that protect us.”
Cyrus, who was there with a group from her Happy Hippie Foundation, all dressed in bright yellow and black logo get-ups, took a positive approach. “We don’t want to talk about change, we want to be the change,” she said. “And to know that I’m not alone in this dream brings me such hope, and hope is a crucial component in creating the world that we want to live in.”
Before her performance with the Edge, Juliette Lewis and Wilk, and bassist Travis spoke exclusively to Billboard about her participation in the event.
“I’m terribly concerned with the flagrant, unconstitutional conflicts of interest, the possibility that treason has occurred and that fact that Trump is obviously completely insane,” she said. “I’m not OK with normalizing racism, misogyny, homophobia or xenophobia. None of this is OK and it’s all completely surreal.”
While speakers Saturday were equally critical of Trump’s psyche and intent on stage, unity remained the central message, with music and art punctuating and highlighting this. Broadway and Black-ish star Jennifer Lewis and pop singer Brandy brought a climactic, goose-bumps-worthy moment singing her fitting viral hit “In These Streets” — which she just remixed referencing Trump’s plans to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico (“Fifty million of us will march down south and we will tear down that wall… Fifty million of us will pick up the phone and answer that call.”)
Debbie Allen presented two dazzling dance performances highlighting the beauty of women, while Thelma Houston got the crowd itself dancing to her disco hit “Don’t Leave Me This way,” which she dedicated to former President Barack Obama.
Women’s March LA organizers are still trying to get an accurate count on the turnout. They are asking marchers to text the words “count me” to 89800. More information and this and highlights from the event on their Facebook page.