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The Women’s March showed its power on a day Donald Trump’s presidency stood still

The Women’s March marks a year of wide-ranging activism on the day the federal government shut down.

Thousands rally at the Women’s March on January 20, 2018 in New York City.
Getty Images

People are packing up their cars, loading up subway stations, and hopping on busses to head to Women’s March events in towns and cities across the country. Since last year, feminists and their allies have come together under the Women’s March banner to protest both issues like the gender pay gap and Trump administration initiatives, like the president’s immigration ban. But it’s particularly poignant that the second Women’s March meets on what happens to be the one-year anniversary of Trump taking office and the first day of a government shutdown.

By midnight Saturday, Congress was locked in a standoff after failing to reach a deal on immigration. Earlier in the week, on Thursday, House Republicans passed a bill “to fund the government for four weeks and extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years, after Congress had failed to reauthorize that program for the last four months,” Vox’s Tara Golshan and Dylan Scott reported. However, 45 Senate Democrats and five Republicans rejected the measure because of the White House’s “unwillingness to accept a bipartisan proposal to address the nearly 700,000 immigrants in legal limbo after he pledged to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program,” Golshan and Scott wrote.

As Vox senior reporter Anna North found while on the ground at New York City’s Women’s March on Saturday morning, the topic was front of mind for marchers.

This should come as no surprise for the millions of people who came together last year in the nascent days of Trump’s administration to rally against what was largely viewed of a rejection of women’s power in Hillary Clinton’s presidential loss and an embrace of an alleged sexual predator as the nation’s leader. For many who have protested in the last year under the Women’s March banner, gender equality has been not a solitary focus but a lens through which they view the fight for many issues, like racial justice, health care, immigration, police reform, and economic inequality.

And sure, this shutdown won’t last forever. Eventually one side will have to give in. The question is: Will that come at the expense of immigrants and their allies — many of whom, both immigrants and allies, are marching this weekend?

Last year’s march was initially criticized for having too narrow a view of what feminism and women’s concerns really are; plenty of feminists, especially women of color, had been campaigning for issues like police and immigration reform long before the 2016 election. Eventually after complaints from uneasy participants and activists, to make it clear that women of all stripes were welcome to the front lines, the march organizers took an intersectional approach — and even that saw resistance from some participants and skepticism from others. Since then, the Women’s March movement has become an essential partner within left-leaning circles for organizing and protesting. All through 2017, Women’s March organizers coordinated efforts with other groups like Color of Change and United We Dream, for example, while often acting as a resource for the women who were new to feminism, activism, and organizing.

It seems the coalition-building efforts of the Women’s March and several other organizations may be a contributing factor to the Democrats’ resistance in Congress to compromise on DACA to pass a budget. As Jeff Stein of the Washington Post points out, many of those Democratic politicians who voted against the budget this week likely did so after facing a “mobilized months-long pressure campaign from key interest group activists who built political power.”

This is evident in the Women’s March’s own tweet late Friday:

One activist recently described to North, the Women’s March movement, and particularly its first convention in October, acted like the “center of a maze.” She adds, “There’s a lot of entrances out of the center, and each one of those are the different issues that we’re tackling, and so we all kind of run in the different directions outside, and that means our voice is in more spaces.” The ability to act as a hub for activists with multiple interests has made the Women’s March movement crucial to the anti-Trump resistance.

As Vox’s Dara Lind wrote in October, their organizing has clearly been effective, particularly around immigration. “The thing is,” she writes, “about 10 years ago, many Democrats — including, notably, Schumer — would have championed many of the Trump administration’s enforcement proposals, from increased local cooperation with immigration enforcement to a physical barrier on the US/Mexico border, even if they weren’t part of a deal to legalize unauthorized immigrants. And they’d certainly accept them, happily, alongside legalization.”

So what’s changed? After trying to regulate immigration from the center and getting little out of it, Democrats seem to be listening to DREAMer activists with a new sense of urgency that’s pushing them to the left. That’s due in large part to the momentum of newer activist efforts gaining traction in the age of Trump.

Still Trump tweeted Saturday afternoon as the protests in Washington, DC, and elsewhere were underway, with a message that seemed to completely miss the point of the weekend’s events.

Clearly, he misses the March’s power and its point. Yes women are protesting sexual and gendered inequality; but he also fails to see the march and its organizers provide a place to fight the very nature of his presidency, whether it’s taking on the inability to pass immigration reform, his astounding racist comments, or his failure to protect health care access for all. Yet the president seems to interpret the Women’s March as a general airing of female grievances, writing off their concerns about things like the wage gap and probably sees nothing but a whole bunch of ladies bleeding out of their wherevers.

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