Thousands of protesters have rallied in the US capital – Washington, DC – and other cities across the country to protest against President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee and to call for his defeat in the November 3 election.
Saturday’s rallies, which organisers said were taking place in all 50 states, were inspired by the first Women’s March in Washington, DC, a huge anti-Trump rally held a day after his 2017 inauguration.
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Speaking to a crowd gathered at Freedom Plaza in the US capital, Rachel O’Leary Carmona, the Women’s March executive director, urged women to oppose Trump in the upcoming election.
“When we come together, when we take the streets, when we vote, women are the single most powerful political force in America, and there is nothing – not one thing – that Donald Trump can do to stop us,” she said.
Marchers also paid tribute to the late Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg – an icon for women and progressives – while protesting Trump’s choice of conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace her.
Ginsburg died on September 18.
The US Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled an October 22 vote on the nomination of Barrett over objections from Democrats that the confirmation process comes too close to the November 3 presidential election.
Demonstrators at the Women’s March said they were angry that Republicans appear ready to confirm Barrett’s nomination so close to Election Day after refusing to move forward Merrick Garland, the pick of former President Barack Obama, a Democrat, more than six months ahead of the 2016 election.
“The fact of the matter is that we are powerful and they are afraid,” said Sonja Spoo, the director of the reproductive rights campaigns at UltraViolet, a feminist advocacy group, one of the speakers at the protest. “They are on the ropes and they know it and we are about to give the knock-out punch.”
Prudence Sullivan, 49, from Lake in the Hills, Illinois, near Chicago, and her sister Kelli Padgett, 47, from Jacksonville, Florida, flew in to join what they described as an energizing and empowering event.
“We’ve had losses from COVID and we’ve clashed with family members over racism, Black Lives Matter,” Sullivan told Reuters News Agency. “So this is something where I can put my money where my mouth is.”
Sullivan said she and her husband, an IT expert, were looking at options for moving overseas if Trump was re-elected.
Jasmine Clemons, a patient advocate at Planned Parenthood, a reproductive healthcare organisation, said she personally “had to overcome far too many obstacles” to have access to an abortion in the US.
She said she feared Barrett intends to further constrain abortion access. “We cannot let [Republican Senator] Mitch McConnell and Trump take away our constitutional rights. That’s why I’m here today,” Clemons told the crowd.
“We are here in honour of all the people who have fought for this right, like Justice [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg.”
In confirmation hearings this week, Barrett side-stepped questions about presidential powers, abortion, climate change, voting rights and Obamacare, saying she could not answer because cases involving these matters could come before the court.
If Barrett takes a seat on the Supreme Court, conservatives would have a 6-3 majority.
In Washington, DC, the protesters marched through the city’s downtown area to the Supreme Court steps. Most wore protective masks, with some dressed as Ginsburg in black robes with white lace collars.
“Vote for your daughter’s future,” read one message in the sea of signs carried by demonstrators. “Fight like a girl,” said another.
In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest women’s rallies were considerably smaller, and organisers urged people worried about in-person participation to join in a “socially distant text-banking telethon” aimed at sending five million messages encouraging people to vote.
A socially distanced march was held at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, outside the dormitory where Bader Ginsburg lived as an undergraduate student.
In New York City, a demonstrator wearing a Donald Trump mask stood next to a statue of George Washington at Federal Hall during the women’s march outside the New York Stock Exchange.
“We Dissent,” said a cardboard sign carried by a young woman wearing a red mask with small portraits of Bader Ginsburg.
People wearing masks gathered peacefully under sunny skies on the City Hall steps in Portland, Oregon to sing and listen to speakers. One speaker called for racial justice and an end to police brutality.
Meanwhile, a conservative women’s group, the Independent Women’s Forum, said it was organising a counterprotest in the US capital on Saturday under the slogan, “I’m With Her”, to show support for Barrett.
“The Women’s March flies under the banner of feminism, but it really isn’t promoting equality or opportunity for women. That’s why these so-called ‘feminists’ are fighting a highly qualified Supreme Court nominee,” the group said on its website.