It was a sea of people dotted with pink hats with cat ears — unusual attire for a massive march.
Many supporters arrived at Queen’s Park on Saturday wearing their ‘pussyhats’ for Toronto’s Women’s March. They were part of the thousands that turned up in the city’s downtown core and the one-million-plus worldwide marching for women’s rights and demonstrating against newly inaugurated president Donald Trump, in solidarity with those marching in Washington, D.C.
“You are part of history right now,” said Kavita Dogra while greeting the crowd. Dogra is the founder of We Talk Women, the women’s rights organization that helped to organize and fund the Toronto event.
While local police confirmed that at least 6,000 people were in attendance, organizers said the turnout was closer to 60,000. Among them were over 100 volunteers acting as marshals throughout the three-hour-long demonstration.
The march began at Queen’s Park at noon, with guest speakers including Debbie Douglas of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, and Crystal Sinclair, a member of Idle No More Toronto. After sharing a minute of silence at 1 p.m., attendees marched south to the U.S. Consulate on University Avenue, and then east to Nathan Phillips Square, where city councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam delivered a speech about the hardships faced by Torontonians today.
“[There are] 18,000 families on the wait list for affordable child care subsidies…[and] our women’s shelters are full to capacity,” Wong-Tam said. “We are letting down women and children. That is not acceptable.”
“We can do better. We will do better. We will march on.”
While the demonstration in Toronto provided an opportunity to discuss issues facing the city itself, it was part of the global response to the misogynistic rhetoric espoused by Trump and many of his supporters in the U.S.
Trump’s 2005 brag, dug up during the election campaign, that as a celebrity, he “can do anything,” which includes “grab[ing] [women] by the p****,” inspired many of Saturday’s protest signs.
Comments like these were the reason Connie Boudens, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, Scarborough, marched this weekend.
Boudens, who has friends and family living in the U.S., was especially bothered by “how distressed [Trump’s victory] makes people I know who live there.”
“There’s an intense sense of fear that I’ve picked up from them that I’ve never seen before,” she said — fear for the future concerning the treatment of women and the rights they will have.
“There’s this feeling that they’re alone.”
But if Saturday’s crowds were any indication, they are not alone. More than one million people were estimated to have marched worldwide (some counts are upwards of three million), with more than 600 “sister marches” held in solidarity with the estimated 500,000 who came out in D.C.
“It’s a way of letting these women know that we see you, we hear you, we’re here with you,” Dogra said.
The demonstrations condemned gender inequality, misogyny, sexual assault, racism and Islamophobia, instead celebrating equality, diversity and inclusion. They were meant to raise awareness of women’s rights and civil liberties — which many believe are now threatened under the new president’s leadership — and send the message that Trump-style politics will not be tolerated.
Despite the apparent opposition towards Trump, for Dogra, the event was not so much an aggressive protest as it was an act of unity and empowerment.
“Words have connotations, and 'protest' sounds angry,” she said. “Although we were all angry about the hate that has been incited [by Trump], this march is about gathering peacefully.”
Aside from Toronto, Canadian demonstrations were held in Ottawa, Vancouver and St. John’s (where weather forced the event to be “virtual”) as well.
The march on America’s capital city was one of hundreds across the U.S. Los Angeles, New York and Chicago drew crowds of 750,000, 400,000 and 250,000 respectively.
Marches were also held in Oslo, Norway; New Delhi, India; Nairobi, Kenya; Sydney, Australia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and even Antarctica.
Back in Toronto, Boudens, the University of Toronto professor, said she was doubtful the demonstrations will lead to change in the U.S. but that a movement this big must be getting Trump’s attention.
“Trump tends to surround himself with people who approve of him, and information he agrees with,” she said. “[But] he can’t ignore this.”
Photo credits: Jennifer Ferreira / OpenCanada.org