A newly energized Women’s March returns to Philadelphia

Signs reflect the sentiments of the crowd at Saturday's We Dissent women's march in Philadelphia. (Katie Meyer/WHYY)

Signs reflect the sentiments of the crowd at Saturday's We Dissent women's march in Philadelphia. (Katie Meyer/WHYY)

Updated 6:15 p.m.

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Women in Philadelphia and across the country gathered Saturday in protest of the likely confirmation of a new conservative Supreme Court justice, Amy Coney Barrett, and to oppose President Donald Trump just weeks before the election.

Philly’s “We Dissent” march began at 2 p.m. at Independence Hall.

Amanda Cappelletti, a candidate for the 17th State Senate District seat, beat embattled Sen. Daylin Leach in Pennsylvania’s June Democratic primary.

“If we’re ever going to have a government that looks like us and not just white old men, I needed to step up,” Cappelletti told the crowd.

Ralliers came from all around Philadelphia, including New Jersey and the suburbs. Ellen Sharkey and Georgia Schilling, both from the suburbs of Piscataway, N.J., said they think Trump is too confident he can win over white women like them.

They wore shark costumes to express their intention to take him by surprise. Sharkey said she’s been particularly appalled by Trump’s tweets about “saving” suburban neighborhoods by discouraging affordable housing from being built there. She reads those statements as obvious coded racism.

“Just because we’re from the suburbs doesn’t mean we’re stupid,” she said.

Valerie Mack and Darlene Hayes, cousins who live in Mount Airy, said they’re concerned about institutions. Mack thinks Trump has made “a shambles” of things like the Supreme Court, and said she hopes a new administration can “put systems in place that are not able to be toppled by the whim of whatever ego, or egomaniacal person, is up in the White House.”

America is flawed, she added, but it’s worth defending.

Valerie Mack and Darlene Hayes of Mount Airy attended the We Dissent march at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on Oct. 17, 2020. (Katie Meyer/WHYY)

“For Black people, it’s always been a little bit of a dichotomy,” Mack said. “But we love this country in spite of it. We love this country because we know there’s the promise of equality.”

About 3 p.m, the march started its move up Market Street. Signs on display showed the participants’ support for a broad array of people and causes — Black Lives Matter, transgender women and immigrants, health care, hunger, education and the environment. But loss of abortion rights was the issue that seemed the most immediate threat to the group as it made its way to City Hall.

Allie Guarini, of New Jersey, marched with her mother, sister and aunt. Their signs, which they made together, honored the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and called for a fall of the patriarchy.

“I think we need change. In the last four years, it’s been really horrible,” she said.

Her mom, Helen, chimed in. “Trump’s torching the Constitution and the whole Republican Party,” she said. “There’s no values there.”

By 3:45, the crowd — by then several hundred-strong — turned toward Benjamin Franklin Parkway and its planned final destination, the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Marchers near the Art Museum during the We Dissent march on Oct. 17, 2020. (Katie Meyer/WHYY)

It has been nearly four years since the massive 2017 Women’s March, just after Trump’s inauguration, that saw more than a million people turn out at the primary Washington, D.C., event and around the country to protest the president.

At those first marches, many women’s worries about the Trump administration were more speculative, based on his comments about groping women — the pink hats women wore in protest of those comments became symbolic of the movement — and his embrace of social conservatives who have long supported, for instance, rollbacks of abortion rights.

With Trump’s first term nearly over, and with Ginsburg’s death in September, those concerns have sharpened.

The GOP-controlled U.S. Senate has fast-tracked the confirmation of Barrett, Trump’s pick to replace Ginsburg on the high court. It’s a rebuke to Democrats, who maintain that it is inappropriate to confirm a justice when millions of Americans are already casting ballots and after Republicans scuttled the confirmation of President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick, Merrick Garland, by delaying votes until Trump was in office.

Barrett is expected to be approved by the Senate on Thursday.

Her judicial record suggests she will be a reliably conservative justice in the mold of her mentor, the late Antonin Scalia. Though she has declined to give firm personal opinions on most of the issues raised during her confirmation hearings, Barrett has previously handed down GOP-friendly opinions on issues ranging from abortion to immigration.

Philadelphia’s Women’s March page made it clear that the loss of Ginsburg and the steady rightward movement of the Supreme Court were top of mind in advance of Saturday’s gathering.

“We need to come together in honor of all the rights RBG died for,” the organizers wrote. “To all the Philly ladies out there — let’s march for the rights of autonomy over our bodies, our representation and have the words of Trump on our city [referring to his “bad things happen in Philadelphia” comment during a debate] be squashed.”

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