HARTFORD, CT — Whether the newness had worn off or concerns about frigid temperatures and the impending snowstorm — or perhaps it was the controversy over the movement’s national organizers — Saturday’s Women’s March didn’t have quite the look or feel of the first one in 2017.
In 2017, more than 10,000 people came to the state Capitol to launch a new feminist movement in protest of the inauguration of Donald Trump, and to stand in solidarity with women, families, people with disabilities, and people of color. Across the country, estimates said more than 5 million attended similar rallies, including a huge one in Washington.
Two years later, the number in attendance in Hartford on Saturday was between 2,500 and 3,000, according to state Capitol police.
But the enthusiasm, signage, and chants for the cause were certainly there at the third annual Women’s March.
One of the organizers, Melissa Kane, said Connecticut has much to be proud of when it comes to pushing issues women care about.
“We need to thank the hundreds of women who ran for office,” she said as the crowd roared. And she quickly added: “We are making a difference.” She noted that the Connecticut General Assembly saw a record number of women elected in 2018.
Originally spurred by the election of President Donald Trump, the Women’s March has become an annual event involving hundreds of thousands of women across the country who show up to demonstrate over a range of issues, including calls for racial equality, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, health care access, and protections for the environment, among others.
In Hartford, as was the case across the country, many held signs poking fun at Trump, such as: “Lock Him Up!”
The march begin at noon at the Corning Fountain in Bushnell Park and wound up at the north steps of the Capitol building for a rally and speeches an hour later.
In attendance was Gov. Ned Lamont, his wife, Annie Lamont, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, among many other public officials.
The Connecticut Women’s March was part of the national #WomensWave, with Women’s March chapters throughout the nation gathering to take concrete, coordinated actions to safeguard voters’ rights and impact elections and policies at the federal, state, and local level.
But the Connecticut group also took pains to distance their efforts from the movement’s national organizers.
There have been divisions in the Women’s March leadership nationwide, including accusations of anti-Semitism, and the exclusion of the LGBTQ community. Many supporters and partner groups, including the Democratic National Committee, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Emily’s List, pulled out of the main march in Washington.
Tamika Mallory, co-president of Women’s March, the group that has planned the main march in Washington, has been under fire over ties to Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, who is widely reviled for anti-Semitic speech. The Women’s March has tried to respond to the controversy by issuing a series of statements denouncing anti-Semitism.
But many have said the response was too little, too late, and that it has hurt the movement.
Saturday’s activities included marches in Hartford, Washington, and 280 other communities across the country.
Organizers said Women’s March Connecticut-We March On is organized by a group of 25 volunteer women activists. Inspired to support the Women’s March and its guiding principles, they sent over 70 buses to Washington in 2017, organized annual sister rallies in Hartford, Stamford, and elsewhere, and continue to grow with committed progressive activists.
The Women’s March Connecticut-We March On organizers, in their press release, stressed that they “are a diverse group of women: Jewish, Muslim, Christian, atheist, and other faiths. Lesbian, bi, queer, trans, and straight. Black, brown, and white, and many other identities as well.
“There is no way we can support hate speech and maintain our values. We will continue to support women of all religions, ethnicities, and creeds, and a part of that means admonishing those who use hateful language,” the Connecticut group said.
“We are affiliated with the Women’s March national organization but are completely independent,” the Connecticut group’s press release said.
Speaking to the crowd at the rally, organizer Kaitlyn Shake said: “some people have thrown doubt about this movement. I say ‘hell no,’ she said.
“All people are welcome (into the movement),” Shake said. “All people are loved.”