By Christina Campodonico and André Coleman
photos By Maria Martin
If the first time defined a cultural moment, the second confirmed a sociopolitical movement.
Hundreds of thousands of people flooded downtown streets on Saturday for the return of Women’s March Los Angeles — as much a show of unity around progressive values as it was a rejection of gender- or race-based oppression and a rebuke of President Donald Trump’s outspoken hostility toward women and minorities.
“This march, this movement and all the other actions that have presented themselves is a notice to men and frankly all people in power that no longer will we be overlooked simply because a woman is afraid to speak out on her own,” said former Pasadena City Council member Jacque Robinson. “We’re all in this together and the second anniversary of the Women’s March is a reminder that we are not in this alone and there is still much work to be done across industries, not just in Hollywood or politics, to ensure that women are treated with respect and compensated with equal pay for equal work.”
The march began in Pershing Square at 10 a.m. and concluded in Grand Park near LA City Hall, where celebrities and local elected officials encouraged voter participation in the upcoming midterm elections and spoke on the anti-sexual abuse movements #TimesUp and #MeToo.
“Having been in this work for many years, I was energized by the march and excited to be there with my family, friends and neighbors and colleagues,” said Pasadena resident Valerie Coachman-Moore.
Several women said they felt more empowered at this year’s march.
“It’s just totally a different feeling from last year,” noted Venice resident Shoshana Maler, a Safe Place for Youth volunteer. “It’s not an anger mood. It’s ‘let’s do something.’”
Actress Scarlett Johansson, wearing a “Time’s Up” T-shirt, encouraged women to call out sexual abuse by recalling the uncomfortable power dynamics she faced as a young woman in Hollywood.
“Suddenly I was 19 again and I began to remember all the men who had taken advantage of the fact that I was a young woman who didn’t yet have the tools to say ‘no,’ or understand the value of my own self-worth,” Johansson said.
The event was also a push to the polls for the November election as Democrats try and take back Congress.
Actress Viola Davis delivered perhaps the most powerful remarks of the day, describing how her personal connection to the #MeToo movement “drives me to the voting booth” in the historical context of America’s litany of injustices against people of color.
“My testimony is one of being sexually assaulted and very much seeing a childhood that was robbed from me,” Davis said. “Every single day, your job as an American citizen is not just to fight for your rights, but it is to fight for the rights of every individual that is taking a breath, whose heart is pumping and breathing on this Earth.”
“Modern Family” actress Sarah Hyland urged, “For the love of God, please vote!”
“Right now is the start of a different kind of conversation,” observed Danielle Gard, co-creator of the protest poster collective Join the Uproar and brand director at Playa Vista advertising firm 72andSunny. “There’s a whole different level of awareness of what any sort of sexual assault means.”
Gard’s co-worker and Join the Uproar collaborator Kelly Schoeffel added that the Women’s March was as relevant this year as it was last.
“The fact that it keeps happening shows it wasn’t just a weekend and then we go back to our lives,” she said. “People are still keeping up the fight.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who announced the turnout as 600,000 strong, pointed his comments more directly at the White House.
“Mr. President, you may know how to shut things down, but we know how to light things up!” Garcetti said. “You have your tweets, but we have these streets!”