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Women issue a call to arms at downtown march

LOS ANGELES — The energy was high for the 2018 Women’s March Jan. 20 in downtown Los Angeles.

The enthusiasm among the hundreds of thousands of people who showed up to march, rally and support work equality and women’s rights and speak out against President Donald Trump was equally high.

“I’m here for myself, for all of the women in my family, for my daughter,” Newbury Park resident Michelle Fishman said. “So hopefully she can live in a world someday where she can be afforded the opportunities of being respected and that she can afford to be considered just as equal as everyone, and along with all her male counterparts, and she can learn that it’s OK to stand up for her rights. She can learn she can stand up for her rights, stand up for what’s right in this country.”

Last year, the first year of the march, the crowd size was estimated around 750,000 people. The 2018 version of the Women’s March in Los Angeles dipped slightly to a projected 600,000 attendees. With the #metoo and #TIMESUP movements going strong, the event was marked by the appearances of high-profile celebrities such as Viola Davis, Natalie Portman, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Eva Longoria, Idina Menzel and Lupita Nyong’o, lending their voices to the cause of justice and equality for women.

Longoria went all in as she addressed the culture of sexual harassment and sexual violence against women.

As many as 500,000 people packed downtown streets Jan. 20 for the 2018 Women’s March, calling for equality in the work place and an end to sexual harassment and assault. Celebrities and politicians addressed the crowd that reached from Pershing Square to City Hall. (Photo by Dennis J. Freeman)

“There’s not one single person who single-handedly built the institutions, the systems that have permitted sexual and economical violence against women,” she said. “This has been happening for generations in our country.

“This march and this movement is far too ambitious in scope and scale, and it extends beyond one political actor or even one political party. What we’re calling for is sustainable and systematic change to the experience of women and girls in America, a change from fear and intimidation to respect; from pain and humiliation to safety and dignity, from marginalization to equal pay and representation.”

Portman, who also spoke at the 2017 Women’s March, took up where Longoria left off in rebuking the sexual violent atmosphere in and out of Hollywood.

“We talked about the beginning of a revolution,” Portman said. “Today, my new daughter is walking, and because of you, the revolution is rolling. You told the world that times up on violence. You told the world that times up on styling. You told the world that it’s time for a new day, time for a new locker room culture, time to think about every person’s desires, needs, wants and pleasures.

“So, let’s talk a little bit more about pleasure. I keep hearing about a particular gripe about this cultural shift … some people have been calling this movement puritanical or a return to Victorian values where men can’t behave or speak sexually around dainty, delicate, fragile women. To these people, I want to say the current system is puritanical. Maybe men can say and do whatever they want, but women cannot.”

People participating in the Women’s March Jan. 20 in downtown Los Angeles urge others to ‘Stay Woke.’ Similar rallies were held in cities large and small throughout the country. (Photo by Dennis J. Freeman)

Besides the slew of celebrities showing up and lending their support, there were plenty of activists and local dignitaries on the scene as well. Compton Mayor Aja Brown addressed the overflowing crowd at an early rally at Perishing Square. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin were among city officials who spoke out in support of the march.

Garcetti took his cue in front of City Hall after Davis had just delivered the most inspired speech of the day.

“Women should be everywhere, not just somewhere,” Garcetti said. “Let me say something to the men and boys: This must be your cause, too. There is no right time to do the wrong thing and there’s no wrong time to do the right thing. If you have power, share it. If you see an injustice, fix it. Don’t be a bystander, be a participant. Stop dismissing locker room talk. It ain’t locker room talk. Men, make this your movement.”

The most important thing for Leslie Lank is to have women’s voices heard.

“Just get our voices heard and make people think about the interests that are affecting women, especially here in Los Angeles and Hollywood, men are taking advantage of women’s bodies,” Lank said. “I think the more women we get speaking out and the more women we get in power, the more we can change our culture.”

“Being born and raised in California, the immigration issue is at the top of my list. I love that California is a sanctuary state. And I look forward to keep advocating for those people,” Melanie Hunter, an African-American woman from Koreatown, told City News Service while wearing a shirt that read, “Why be racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic when you can just be quiet?”

“What brought me out here today is everything that has been happening in the last year, specifically all of the injustices against people of color and women and especially the Donald Trump presidency, which I consider to be illegitimate,” said a woman named Shannon who lives in Anaheim but preferred not to give her last name. Shannon was holding a sign that read “GOP — Greedy Old Perverts.”

The coordinated rallies in L.A., Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York, Santa Ana, Palm Springs and other cities across the country also aimed to repeat the success of last year’s demonstrations, where an estimated 3 to 4 million took to the streets to protest Trump’s inauguration.

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