The City of Los Angeles is roughly 3.8 million people big, and it felt like a good fourth of them were packed onto downtown streets for the Women’s March on Saturday. Santa Barbara alone organized more than a thousand people to head south.
From Orange County to West L.A., the metro train and bus systems were overwhelmed with rally-goers, cheerfully upbeat about standing-room-only conditions and hour-long waits for a ride to Pershing Square. A crowd waiting for a train in Studio City that never came began a spontaneous march with hundreds of people through the city.
That optimistic spirit prevailed during the long wait for the march to begin downtown, with wall-to-wall people for over a dozen blocks surrounding the route up Hill Street to City Hall. Women wearing suffragette white swayed in a choreographed dance to drums on one street; on another choruses of “Amazing Grace” and “America the Beautiful” rang out. Impatience turned into loud chants: “I don’t want your tiny hands, anywhere near my underpants!”; “Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go!”; and a well-organized crowd of men chanting “Her body, her choice!” answered by women calling “My body, my choice!”
For all the chaos of the unexpected multitude of people, the LAPD was notably low profile, seen only directing traffic on the outskirts. In a press release, it called the march a “joyous and peaceful” expression of First Amendments rights, with no arrests. Media spokesperson Capt. Andrew Neiman called it “the largest I have seen in my 30 years as a police officer in Los Angeles.” The Los Angeles Times reported an estimate of close to 750,000 people at the march.
It felt like the Highway 101/405 interchange at rush hour when the march finally got underway up Hill Street, with thousands upon thousands of people attempting to merge from the side streets between 6th and 1st. It overwhelmed the area around City Hall, too, with the tail of the march stopping fast about two blocks distant. Even as some decided to head home at that point, train cars full of people were still arriving, carrying signs, wanting their voice to be heard.
This story was assembled with contributions from Caitlin Fitch, Marianne Kuga, and Jean Yamamura.