By Bryan Boyhan
The normally black and gray rivers of people that daily flow through the streets of New York City were brightened Saturday with shades of pink and red bobbing slowly along atop the heads of thousands of women who had come to protest the policies of President Donald Trump.
Most of the marchers were women, unsurprisingly since the event was organized by the New York Chapter of the Women’s March on Washington, and in sympathy to the struggle for equal rights for women, and the threat to those rights many fear is posed by the new administration. They were mostly young, 20-somethings, and mostly carried signs or banners that broadcast their fears and displeasure with the new president and what they see as his policies: “My Body, My Choice,” “Our Rights Aren’t up for Grabs and Neither Are We,” and “Keep Your Tiny Hands Off Our Rights.”
And many of those women wore the distinct knitted wool caps in various rosy shades that, when their corners flop slightly, vaguely resemble the ears of a kitten. That goes a long way — but not entirely — in explaining why they are called pussy hats.
And many of the posters they carried underscored the message that some women were not to be marginalized or trifled with.
“This pussy has claws,” declared one sign.
A New York Police Department post about 5 p.m. estimated the attendance of the march for women’s rights — which started at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at 48th St., crossed west along 42nd Street, then headed due north to Trump Tower along 5th Avenue — at about 500,000 strong. An official statement from the mayor’s office later in the day pegged the number of protestors at 400,000. Regardless, added to dozens of similar marches around the globe, including a massive march in Washington, D.C. (see adjacent story), millions of people took the day after Inauguration Day to criticize the 45th president of the United States.
“The changes our new president has vowed to bring about are very upsetting to me,” said Sag Harbor’s Eric Cohen, one of dozens of local residents who traveled to New York for the march. “I felt it necessary to be there and lend my voice to those who are also concerned.”
But they were not entirely young, and not entirely female.
One woman who appeared to be in her late 60s carried a sign that read “Post Menopausal Women for Reproductive Rights.” A man carried a sign “Men of Quality Don’t Fear Equality.”
Mr. Cohen, for example said he had concerns that went beyond women’s issues.
“The repeal of Obamacare, especially,” he said, “and some of his appointments. His choice for education secretary in particular. And Ben Carson, what’s that about?”
The size of the demonstration turned out to be much larger than organizers expected, and participants received regular text messages announcing that their groups had been pushed back later in the day. Indeed, the staging area had increased by a block by 2 p.m., and so many were on the route that at times it was more of a shuffle than a march.
But the crowd gave many the opportunity to make new connections.
Stuck in the plaza, North Haven’s April Gornik met a group of deaf people who were marching on behalf of the handicapped.
“My husband had made a sign that read: ‘Trump’s Lies Matter,’” said Ms. Gornik.
“They loved it,” she said. “They even had a hand sign for Trump,” and Ms. Gornik described one woman running a flat hand over her head like a comb over, and then ran her hand under her chin to signify liar.
The chatter in the march’s ranks was wide ranging, from the political — wondering if Michelle Obama could become president in 2020 — to the leisurely — “Where would you like to eat when we’re done?” “Anywhere with good food.”
Most, like Mr. Cohen’s wife, Bobbie, thought the energy of the march was exhilarating.
“I found it exciting, engaging and inspiring,” said Ms. Cohen, who noted she saw some of her coworkers from Sag Harbor schools at the event.
“By the time we got to 5th and 47th the energy was sky high,” said Ms. Gornik, who, like the others, agreed the march addressed many different concerns.
“I never thought of it solely as a women’s march,” she said. “I thought of it as an everyone’s march.”