Los Angeles Women's March Gathers Music and Film Stars for #MeToo and #TimesUp Solidarity, Bid to Mobilize Votes for Change
Marking one year since Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Women’s March on Jan. 20 once again brought out of hundreds of thousands of protesters to the streets of major cities around the country (and around the globe), this time with an agenda focused on voter mobilization.
In Los Angeles, the march attracted an estimated crowd of 700,000, according to the Women's March LA Foundation’s Twitter account. (Other estimates, such as that of mayor Eric Garcetti, who spoke at the event, put it closer to 600,000, which would still make it the most-attended march in the United States.)
Filling the streets of downtown Los Angeles with chanting citizens, many wearing last year’s popular pink cat-eared knit caps and tees proclaiming “Nasty Woman” and “Fuck Trump,” the crowd held an array of colorful, comical and powerful signage, all expressing a range of emotions and enraged perspectives on the 45th president’s policies, as well as the push back against harassment and abuse of women represented by the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.
Starting at Pershing Square and ending at the front steps of City Hall on Spring St., the march route gathered the bulk of attendees at Grand Park by early afternoon, where an array of speakers from the worlds of film, TV, music and politics took the stage.
Scarlett Johansson, Alfre Woodard, Olivia Munn, Allison Janney, Eva Longoria, Marisa Tomei, Nicole Richie, Natalie Portman and Viola Davis each took turns sharing fierce calls to action and their own run-ins with harassment working in the entertainment industry.
Portman, who was pregnant last year when she spoke and brought her baby daughter with her to the event, opened the presentation stating, “You told the world that time’s up on violence. You told the world that time’s up on silence. You told the world that it’s time for a new day, time for a new locker room culture and time to think about every person’s desires and needs, wants and pleasure.”
Davis had a particularly powerful turn at the mic later, discussing the discriminatory “Jim Crow” laws, and referencing her own racial and sexual mistreatment, as well as speaking for those who don’t have the platform to tell their stories. "I am speaking today not just for the #MeToos, because I was #MeToo, but when I raise my hand, I am aware of all the women who are still in silence. The women who are faceless,” she said. “The women who don't have the money and don't have the constitution and who don't have the confidence and who don't have the images in our media that give them a sense of self-worth enough to break their silence that is rooted in the shame of assault.”
Paris Jackson, the daughter of King of Pop Michael, attempted to put a positive spin on the proceedings, reading from a pleaful letter she wrote to Donald Trump, asking for communication and understanding of divergent points of view, regardless of political parties. It was a sentiment that resonated in light of the federal government’s shutdown, which went into effect only the day before.
In between the procession of impassioned words, an assortment of musical performances amplified the messages expressed.
Melissa Etheridge and the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles performed "Uprising of Love," her 2014 single about the challenges facing LGBTQ communities around the world. Recalling a performance of the song in Russia, she said, "Believe me, the people of Russia are feeling like we are. The people of the world are looking to us." She added, "We’re changing it… and change starts right here with yourself!”
Other musical moments came from Idina Menzel, who did a dramatic take on “Defying Gravity,” from Wicked; The Greatest Showman‘s Keala Settle, who sang her empowerment anthem, “This Is Me”; Andra Day who gave a stirring rendition of her hit, “Rise Up!”; and Maxwell, offering a soulfully layered version of his hit “Women’s Work.”
“It was such an honor to perform and be surrounded by such an amazing group of women,” Maxwell told Billboard. “The world would be nothing without all the powerful ladies out there.”
This year’s march may not have boasted Barbra Streisand and Jane Fonda as speakers as it did last year, but the event did feel more streamlined in terms of set-up and focus. There were more events surrounding the march, such as Planned Parenthood's benefit at the Standard Hotel Saturday morning, a week-long art show called “Into Action” at galleries downtown and after-march events, including vogue competition and party Banjee Ball.
Social media played a bigger role too, with the entirety of the presentation live-streamed on Facebook and more hashtag driven campaigns. The mottos “Hear Our Vote” and “Power to the Polls” signified the foundation’s focus in Los Angeles and around the country to galvanize liberals and democrats, women and people of color, and to make it easy for them to be represented at the ballot box. The march may be over, but they continue to work on this goal via social media, directing visitors to text P2P to RTVOTE to register.