Amid Snow And Controversy, Demonstrators Take To The Streets For 3rd Women's March Marches took place across the country, from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco to snowy upstate New York. Leaders called for unity as controversy and questions of inclusivity loomed over the event.
NPR logo Amid Snow And Controversy, Demonstrators Take To The Streets For 3rd Women's March

Amid Snow And Controversy, Demonstrators Take To The Streets For 3rd Women's March

Thousands of women gathered in Washington, D.C., and across the country to support women's rights. Amr Alfiky/NPR hide caption

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Amr Alfiky/NPR

Thousands of women gathered in Washington, D.C., and across the country to support women's rights.

Amr Alfiky/NPR

Updated at 5:38 p.m. ET

For the third year in a row, demonstrators gathered in the nation's capital and cities around the world for Women's March events.

In Washington, D.C., crowds of people wearing pink hats marched from Freedom Plaza down Pennsylvania Avenue, advocating for women, immigrants, people of color and LGBTQ rights. They took to the streets just weeks after women were sworn into Congress in record numbers.

In Washington, crowds of people, many wearing pink hats, marched from Freedom Plaza down Pennsylvania Avenue. Olivia Sun/NPR hide caption

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Olivia Sun/NPR

In Washington, crowds of people, many wearing pink hats, marched from Freedom Plaza down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Olivia Sun/NPR

Marches took place nationwide from New York to San Francisco to Dallas, Philadelphia and Portland, Maine. Crowds in Montpelier, Vt., braved temperatures well below freezing. In Seneca Falls, N.Y., the seat of the first women's convention in the 19th century, marchers in big coats trudged through falling snow. Red-and-white outfits inspired by the dystopian novel and television series The Handmaid's Tale, popped up in marches across the country, similar to last year's demonstrations.

Pavlina Chladkova from North Carolina brought her doggy demonstrator Aspen to the nation's capital. Amr Alfiky/NPR hide caption

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Amr Alfiky/NPR

Pavlina Chladkova from North Carolina brought her doggy demonstrator Aspen to the nation's capital.

Amr Alfiky/NPR

In Pennsylvania, Attorney General Josh Shapiro introduced a survivor of clergy sexual abuse to speak. On a stage in New York, where issues of inclusivity have polarized marchers, newly elected Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rallied the crowd.

The protest movement began in 2017 and still embodies many of the same ideas. But the message this year has been muddled by controversy among the leaders of the march.

The Women's March in Washington found itself coping with an abbreviated route because of the government shutdown. Amr Alfiky/NPR hide caption

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Amr Alfiky/NPR

The Women's March in Washington found itself coping with an abbreviated route because of the government shutdown.

Amr Alfiky/NPR

Controversy over a Women's March leader's ties to Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, led some women to stay home. Olivia Sun/NPR hide caption

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Olivia Sun/NPR

Controversy over a Women's March leader's ties to Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, led some women to stay home.

Olivia Sun/NPR

Ties between Tamika Mallory, one of the leaders of the march, and Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, have caused disagreement in the top ranks of the organization over Farrakhan's anti-Semitism. The Nation of Islam is considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Women's March has denounced anti-Semitism.

The Democratic National Committee dropped its sponsorship of the march, as did the National Organization for Women, NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben reports from D.C. And the controversy led some women to stay home.

In Hartford, Conn., protesters brought their own messages to their demonstration. Frankie Graziano/Connecticut Public Radio hide caption

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Frankie Graziano/Connecticut Public Radio

In Hartford, Conn., protesters brought their own messages to their demonstration.

Frankie Graziano/Connecticut Public Radio

Protesters marched for myriad reasons, including opposition to President Trump to support for abortion rights. Tyrone Turner/WAMU hide caption

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Tyrone Turner/WAMU

Protesters marched for myriad reasons, including opposition to President Trump to support for abortion rights.

Tyrone Turner/WAMU

Speakers, including Mallory, addressed the controversy directly and urged demonstrators to rally around shared causes.

"To my Jewish sisters, do not let anyone tell you who I am," Mallory told the crowd. "I see all of you. I see you and I hear your pain."

Even as the disagreement loomed over Saturday's proceedings, there was a sense of unity among the diverse coalition present, Kurtzleben reports.

"I know there's some controversy around this march," Cristine Betters, who went to the march with her daughter, tells NPR. "But for us, it's not about the leaders. We don't know the leaders' names, we don't know anything about them, and we frankly don't care. ... We're here to be one with the sisterhood."

In Boston, people bundled up and hit the streets to make sure their voices were heard. Meredith Nierman/WGBH hide caption

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Meredith Nierman/WGBH

In Boston, people bundled up and hit the streets to make sure their voices were heard.

Meredith Nierman/WGBH

Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who was sworn in earlier this month, delivers the keynote address at the 2019 Women's March in Boston. Meredith Nierman/WGBH hide caption

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Meredith Nierman/WGBH

Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who was sworn in earlier this month, delivers the keynote address at the 2019 Women's March in Boston.

Meredith Nierman/WGBH

Another woman at the march, who declined to give her full name, described herself as a Jewish feminist. She had reconsidered attending the march because of the controversy but decided she would go in order to stand in solidarity with other women, NPR's Sarah McCammon reports. She held a sign in Hebrew that read: "And you shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Marchers in Washington gathered in Freedom Plaza, unlike in the previous two demonstrations, which had taken place on the National Mall. But the march resembled previous years, as demonstrators raised signs about LGBTQ rights, #BlackLivesMatter and immigration, as well as myriad posters referencing President Trump.

Meanwhile, a small group of protesters to the march held up anti-abortion and anti-Islam signs.

The Women's March spread around the globe on Saturday, as it has in previous years, with demonstrators taking to the streets from Geneva to Madrid. In London, people gathered with signs protesting violence against women and policies of austerity.

NPR's Hafsa Quraishi contributed to this report.