Thousands brace cold for 2019 Women’s March in Philadelphia

They chanted, they sang, and brought signs demanding, among other things, protections for immigrants, the LGBTQ community and communities of color.

For the third year in a row Philadelphia’s streets were flooded with thousands of rally goers supporting a renewed women’s movement, which gained momentum after the election of President Donald Trump.

In Philadelphia, there were two main rallies people could attend. One was hosted by Philly Women Rally in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and another in Love Park organized by Women’s March Pennsylvania.

A third group of more than a dozen people with Philadelphia’s Socialist Alternative gathered across from Love Park before joining that group.

Avia Maltz, with Socialist Alternative, ahead of participating in the 2019 Women’s March, in Center City Philadelphia, Pa. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)

Aviva Malz is with Socialist Alternative, a group that sees capitalism as the main cause behind a lot of the issues women are fighting for. She said the group doesn’t politically align in a lot of ways with the national or local Women’s March.

“But we do recognize that there are a lot of people in that crowd or who are attending these marches that see the same problems that we do in society,” she said, citing sexual harassment or discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

For that reason, Malz said her group would hold its own demonstration and then speak at the rally in Love Park.

At Love Park, Christina Collazo and some of her friends from a feminist book club held signs at what was their first rally. Part of her motivation to attend a rally was President Trump holding office.

“And constantly is degrading women and not recognizing our rights,” she explained.

Kevin Taylor said he joined Collazo and the group because he wants to show his support but that’s only half the battle.

“My goal for the movement is to see bills passed that are awarding to women,” he said.

A 10 minute walk from Love Park, Elena Foster was with her friends from Temple University in front of the art museum. Last year, about 40,000 people showed up to demonstrate but Foster suspected a lower turnout this year due to cold weather.

“I definitely want to show support because it’s such a low turnout,” she said. “You know every person that comes out matters. “

Still, local organizers were also dealing with internal issues.

The Love Park organizers with ties to national Women’s March were dealing with criticisms of national organizers.

A national Women’s March leader has been criticized for attending an event with Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, who has been slammed for making anti-Semitic remarks.

The organizers who put together the rally in front of the art museum had a recent board shakeup too.

But these rallies have also drummed up questions about diversity.

“I’m here because I think that there was a lot of issues with like representation of women of color in the past,” said Katy Hill-Ott who attended the demonstration in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Hill-Ott said a lack of representation is why she didn’t attend the rally in Philadelphia in 2017, though she changed her mind last year.

“I sort of felt like it’s important to be seen, and make a statement, and represent women of color in sort of what is a white space,” she said.

Still, there was also confusion around why these groups didn’t work together.

But Toree Weaver who attended the event with Foster said she doesn’t see the different rallies as a detriment and she stopped at all three in the area to hear what speakers had to say.

“I think it’s urgent to keep fighting everyday against oppression, against disrespect,” she said. “Not even just today but any day that you’re a woman or ally to woman. No matter if it’s 12 people out here or 12,000.”

At the Philly Women Rally event, there were themes of reducing violence in the city, getting more women into elected office and making healthcare accessible to all.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro touted his office’s efforts to fight Trump administration policies.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro shares the stage with Mary McHale, a victim of clergy sex abuse, during the Women’s March, January 19, 2019. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)

“When this white house tried to take away women’s access to contraception, we went to federal court, we brought 23 other states with us, and just this week we got a national injunction protecting millions of across this country who now still have access to contraception,” he said to a cheering crowd.

Movita Johnson-Harrell, director of victim services for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, said gun violence was not a problem limited to black, Latino or Jewish members of the community.

“This is a money problem,” she said. “The greedy gun lobby and gun manufacturers place profit over the lives of our children.”

Other speakers included lawmakers and elected state and city officials, as well as survivors of abuse.

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