BY KAREN OCAMB | The Women’s March in downtown Los Angeles swelled so significantly on Saturday, the jubilant crowd of 750,000 was forced onto streets adjacent to the parade route from Pershing Square to L.A. City Hall. And, as with the main march in Washington DC and the sister marches worldwide, LGBT rights were among the scores of intersectional issues cited as needing protection from President Donald J. Trump, inaugurated the day before.
The march, started with a speculative Facebook post after former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton lost the electoral college, grew in magnitude and organizational strength, reflective of the fact that Clinton won the popular vote by almost 4 million more votes than Trump. By Jan. 21, the march date deliberately set as a response to Trump’s inauguration, Women’s March organizers reported that there were 673 sister marches around the globe, including in Antarctica, with an estimated attendance of 4,814,000. The RISE UP! Women’s March on Chicago, which drew more than 250,000 participants, was co-produced by Tracy Baim, publisher of the Windy City Times.
All Out, Athlete Ally, GLAAD, GLAD, National Center for Transgender Equality, The Human Rights Campaign, PFLAG, Transgender Law Center, and The Trevor Project were among the scores of participating partners in the march.
Most marchers, however, appeared to be ordinary citizens protesting Trump’s rhetoric about undocumented immigrants and Muslims and his behavior toward women and the disabled, as well as the “America First” nationalism and his vision of a America rife with “carnage” brought on by the Obama administration articulated in his dark Inaugural address.
“No, I am not ovary-reacting” read Ariella Fiore’s sign, referring to Trump’s attitude toward reproductive rights. At one point, Trump told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that a woman who has an abortion should be punished, though a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion has been constitutionally protected since 1973.
“In the last few months, I’ve felt kind of helpless, and I wanted to come down here to be with people who felt the way I did,” Fiore, 44, a bisexual Latina from Van Nuys, told the LA Daily News.
Brianna Saraceno and her mother Stephanie Scott were among many women of three generations who marched. “I came out in solidarity with women, immigrants, LGBT, Black Lives Matter,” said Saraceno of Pasadena, “all people against racism, sexism.”
“People are very afraid to have an elected leader with no plan,” Scott said. “It’s very unnerving, and people are responding to that. It’s chilling. I never thought the country would be in this place.”
Baby boomers Philip and Claudia Dichter, who marched as UCLA students for civil rights and against the Vietnam War in the 1960s, were back to protest again. “I can’t believe we have to do this again,” Philip Dichter said. “It’s not just about women’s rights or LGBT rights. I feel like our civil rights are under attack.”
Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Andrew Neiman told the Daily News that in his 30 years with the LAPD, “this is the biggest crowd I’ve observed in downtown,” he said. No arrests were reported.
LGBTs were an integral part of the main DC march, too, which drew an estimated crowd of 500,000.
“I will respect the presidency, but I will not respect this president of the United States of America,” said Women’s March National Co-Chair Linda Sarsour, a Muslom. “I will not respect an administration that won an election on the backs of Muslims and black people and undocumented people and Mexicans and people with disabilities and on the backs of women.”
New California Sen. Kamala Harris and reliably kick-ass Rep. Maxine Waters also addressed the crowd, as did a number of celebrities and Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice Executive J. Bob Alotta, transgender author Janet Mock, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and writer Raquel Willis, a trans activist from Atlanta, the Washington Blade reported.
“We chose to come together today in all of our power. We do not and we will not choose one neighbor over another. We do not and we will not choose to deny our queerness, our lesbian gay or trans selves in order to be a march for women or a country for everyone,” Alotta said.
“We do not and we will not deny the beauty and power and joy in our blackness and brownness as it would make us more safer or any more sane in a country that has proven otherwise over and over again. We will not hide behind our whiteness.”
One of the most memorable speeches came from feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem who eviscerated Donald Trump and said out loud what millions are thinking.
“Thank you for understanding that sometimes we must put our bodies where our beliefs are. Sometimes pressing send is not enough. And this also unifies us with the many in this world who do not have computers or electricity or literacy, but do have the same hopes and the same dreams,” Steinem said.
“I’m not trying to deny the danger that this day initiates. Trump and his handlers have found a fox for every chicken coop in Washington, and a Twitter finger must not become a trigger finger. Some very experienced doctors of the American Psychiatric Association have publicly written to warn us that, and I quote, “His widely reported symptoms of mental instability, including grandiosity, impulsivity, hyper-sensitivity to slights or criticisms, and an apparent inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality, lead us to question his fitness for the immense responsibilities of the office.” Unquote,” Steinem continued.
“This was on full display in his inaugural address yesterday. Everything that happened before him was a disaster. And everything that he would do would be fantastic, the best ever, miracles, and all the superlatives. He also said he was with the people. Indeed, he was the people. To paraphrase a famous quote, I just have to say, “I have met the people, and you are not them.” We are the people,” she said.
But while the march may have been cathartic, there is a question about if and how that energy will translate into political action and electoral changes. And, as Sunday dragged on, it became clear the Trump administration could care less.
“Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote? Celebs hurt cause badly,” @realDonaldTrump tweeted.
Trump senior counselor Kellyanne Conway went further, basically dismissing the march with a sneer.
“Hillary Clinton lost that election fairly and squarely, basically running on the same message we heard here yesterday in Washington DC and elsewhere,” Conway said on Meet The Press Sunday. “I heard like a repeat. It was this awful sequel, as awful as the original. We just litigated all this in the campaign and they came to Washington and said the same thing.”
So, apparently, since Clinton lost, the issues she and millions of voters cared about lost, too.
The point was missed, however, after Conway the perfect catch-phrase for the new age of Trump: alternative facts.
Meet The Press host Chuck Todd was persistently trying to get an answer to why Trump went before the hallowed wall of stars at the CIA and insisted on claiming that the size of his Inaugural crowd was a million to a million-half, which was demonstrably untrue. Trump’s White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer then called an unusual press conference, his first, and angrily doubled down on the number, much to the shocked consternation of the assembled media. In his five-minute diatribe, Spicer issued several misstatements, including saying “this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.”
“These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong,” Spicer argued late Saturday.
Crowd size experts told the New York Times , however, that they estimated Trump’s audience at fewer than 200,000 people. Additionally, side-by-side photographs of President Obama’s 2009 Inauguration and Trump’s crowd last Friday clearly show the marked, stark contrast between the two.
Todd asked why the relatively minor issue of crowd size merited such attention from Trump and why Spicer used falsehoods to buffet his explanation. “You’re saying it’s a falsehood and Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that,” Conway told Todd. Besides, she said, “I don’t think you can prove those numbers one way or another. There’s no way to quantify crowd numbers.”
Then, as she hinted at throughout the interview (see annotated transcript here) – the press could be punished if it insists on calling out Trump falsehoods, believing it is a privilege to cover the new president and knowing that, like disgraced President Nixon, Trump is keeping an enemies list and likes revenge.
“If we’re going to keep referring to the press secretary in those types of terms I think we’re going to have to rethink our relationship here,” Conway said.
“We caught them in a beauty,” Trump told his CIA audience about news media’s stories about how size matters, “and I think they’re going to pay a big price.”
But this is the CIA, one of the intelligence agencies he disparaged in the same way he’s tried to delegitimize the media. “I just want to let you know, I am so behind you,” Trump told more than 300 employees gathered in the CIA lobby, along with his traveling entourage of cheerleaders.
“I have a running war with the media,” Mr. Trump said. “They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth, and they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community,” adding, “I love you, I respect you, there’s nobody I respect more.”
No mention or apology for Trump’s questioning “the intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia meddled in the United States election on his behalf. After the disclosure of a dossier with unsubstantiated claims about Mr. Trump, he accused the intelligence community of allowing the leak and wrote on Twitter, ‘Are we living in Nazi Germany?’” the New York Times reported.
As confusing and unnerving as it may be to the press in trying to report on Trump to the general public, the Orwellian world of “alternative facts” is a comfortable one for the new president, according to a Politico magazine report “Trump’s Lies vs. Your Brain” on news outlets that have reported on him regularly.
After first noting that “all presidents lie,” Politico says Trump is in “a different category.”
“The sheer frequency, spontaneity and seeming irrelevance of his lies have no precedent. Nixon, Reagan and Clinton were protecting their reputations; Trump seems to lie for the pure joy of it. A whopping 70 percent of Trump’s statements that PolitiFact checked during the campaign were false, while only 4 percent were completely true, and 11 percent mostly true. (Compare that to the politician Trump dubbed “crooked,” Hillary Clinton: Just 26 percent of her statements were deemed false.),” Politico reports.
“Those who have followed Trump’s career say his lying isn’t just a tactic, but an ingrained habit. New York tabloid writers who covered Trump as a mogul on the rise in the 1980s and ’90s found him categorically different from the other self-promoting celebrities in just how often, and pointlessly, he would lie to them. In his own autobiography, Trump used the phrase “truthful hyperbole,” a term coined by his ghostwriter referring to the flagrant truth-stretching that Trump employed, over and over, to help close sales. Trump apparently loved the wording, and went on to adopt it as his own,” the report says
So basically, the reports suggests, Trump is so accustomed to taking credit for everything, he wants credit for the description of his own apparent habit of lying.
What this means, Politico suggest — including for the hope for LGBT rights – is that: “Unless Trump dramatically transforms himself, Americans are going to start living in a new reality, one in which their leader is a manifestly unreliable source.”
And that unreliability applies to what, if anything, matters to Donald J. Trump besides himself.