Thousands take part in Women's March on London
Inspired by the Women's March on Washington, people in cities around the world hit the streets on Saturday to show solidarity with Americans and to promote human rights and gender equality in their own countries.
While the march in Washington was forecast to draw about 200,000 people, organizers said other marches dotted around the United States – and indeed the world – could collectively draw crowds 10 times that figure. Organizers said they want to send a bold message to President Donald Trump on his first full day in office that women's rights are worth defending.
Trump's campaign was colored by sexist remarks, allegations of sexual assault and lewd comments about women that Trump dismissed as "locker room talk." Many women voted for Trump, including the majority of white women.
Some organizers have tried to play down the marches as "anti-Trump" and instead emphasize messages of unity.
"It's an opportunity to come together, to grieve and then to turn that around to celebrate unity," said Kimberly Espinal, one of the organizers of the London rally that kicked off at noon local time.
On a cold and sunny winter's day, the crowd in London was large and lively. Demonstrators held colorful placards reading "Our voices together can't be silenced" and, in apparent reference to Trump, "Even Voldemort was better."
Protesters gathered first outside the U.S. Embassy, and planned to wind their way through central London en route to Trafalgar Square. Among those expected to demonstrate was London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
"As a feminist in City Hall I fully support the fight for gender equality," Khan said in a statement. "It's wrong that in 2017 someone's life chances and fundamental rights are still dependent on their gender."
Marina Knight, a 43-year-old executive assistant, was marching Saturday with her 9-year-old daughter, Phoebe, and with two other moms and their daughters
"This is her first march – it's the first time we felt it was vital to march," Knight said, referring to her daughter. "I feel the rights we take for granted could go backwards and we owe it to our daughters and the next generation to fix this somehow."
There were "sister marches" taking place in more than 70 countries spread across the continents – including the Antarctic, where a march has been penciled in onboard an expedition ship.
The largest rally outside of the United States was expected in London, where according to a Facebook group, about 37,000 were planning to attend, and more than 35,000 were mulling it over.
"People across Europe and the world are campaigning because Donald Trump's campaign has normalized misogynistic and sexist ideas," said Catherine Riley, a spokeswoman for the Women's Equality Party, a political party in Britain that has taken a leading role in organizing the rally.
In Paris, thousands of women and men marched through the city's grand boulevards in a rejection of the new American president that was organized by a network of French and American feminist organizations.
"We are mobilizing as the new president of the United States prepares to apply the violently sexist, lesbophobic, homophobic, xenophobic and racist ideology that he defended during his campaign," read the event's Facebook page, which also listed more than 4,000 attendees.
But for Marie Allibert, one of the organizers, the message of the march was not entirely to condemn the words and actions of President Trump.
"It's more about women's rights, human rights," she said. "During the campaign there were lots of misogynist, racist and hateful messages, and that's what we're standing up against."
Besides, she added, France itself has its own presidential elections looming in April and May, a contest that many have interpreted as a potential next chapter in populist upheaval. Marine le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front party, is climbing in the polls, and close behind her is the more centrist conservative Francois Fillon, whose opposition to abortion has outraged many women voters.
"There's a parallel between the situation in the U.S. and the situation in France," Allibert said. "We have two major candidates that we feminist organizations think are a direct threat to women's rights."
It is perhaps remarkable that so many foreigners are marching in demonstrations related to the inauguration of a U.S. president.
But organizers said that interest was almost immediate.
The day after the U.S. election, a plan was hatched to march on Washington. Within hours, the American organizers started fielding requests from people in other countries who couldn't make it to Washington but wanted to take part.
"In first 24 hours, people from London, Norway, Australia, Canada, Switzerland got in touch saying, 'Hey, we'd also love to have a march in our country, can you create our own Facebook page for that?'" said Breanne Butler, a chef from New York and one of the event's global organizers.
She noted that each march has its own dynamic, and demonstrators will be pushing different messages. "In many South American countries, gender violence is at the top of the list," she said. "In Tokyo, one of the issues they are campaigning for about is the right to education."
New Zealand and Australia were among the first countries in the world where women took to the streets.
Despite it being summer in the Southern Hemisphere, some people were spotted in Wellington wearing knitted pink "pussyhats" – the cat theme referencing Trump's lewd remarks in a 2005 video.
In Sydney, demonstrators were met with a surprise when they looked up to see the word Trump emblazoned in the sky. Supporters of Trump reportedly paid to have the president's name written in the air, prompting jeers from the crowd.
"People ask: 'Why here? Why Sydney? This isn't your issue,'" Kate Taylor, co-founder of the march on Sydney said in a brief interview during that rally. "But it is. Misogyny and bigotry are global issues."
The Washington Post's Griff Witte in London and James McAuley in Paris contributed to this report.