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Women's March of Los Angeles fills Downtown streets with signs, songs

People poured into the streets of Downtown for the Women's March of Los Angeles on Saturday to march and hear speeches and performances by politicians, activists and artists.

The L.A. march was organized as a sister event to the Women's March on Washington. The march was a day "about unity, celebration of human rights, self respect and dignity," according to the organizers. Similar marches were held Saturday in cities around the country and the world.

Speeches at the L.A. march highlighted various themes including women's rights and feminism, the election and inauguration of Donald Trump, diversity, indigenous rights, Black Lives Matter and the labor movement. Several speakers also noted L.A.'s unique brand of feminism: a city that's powered by single working moms, many of whom are immigrants. At a stage set up for the march on Broadway and 6th Street, musician Rufus Wainwright performed a cover of "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen at a stage on Broadway. Barbra Streisand, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Miley Cyrus, Alfre Woodard and Natalie Portman also spoke to the crowd.

"I'd like to thank our new president. You just started a revolution," Portman told the crowd.

The streets were so crowded with people that not much marching was going on, said Capt. Andrew Neiman of the Los Angeles Police Department. 

"Everybody out here is in a great mood and very cooperative and is expressing their First Amendment in a very peaceful and respectful way," Neiman said. No arrests were made, Neiman said.

Aneesa Andradi, 22, said she came to the march from Claremont because it feels "like everyone is on the same team and is wanting to fight."

Aneesa Andradi attended the Women's March of Los Angeles on Saturday, Jan. 21.
Josie Huang
Aneesa Andradi attended the Women's March of Los Angeles on Saturday, Jan. 21.

"I'm Muslim, I'm a woman of color and a young woman," Andradi said. "I feel very threatened by Trump's administration, so I wanted to be around people who were like-minded."

Chants rose up from the crowd throughout the morning — at times, women yelled "my body, my choice," and men in the crowd responded with "her body, her choice." 

“I worry that the Trump folks will say 'it’s just California, so who cares?’ but this is amazing turnout," said Katherine King, 74, a retired professor of comparative literature from UCLA. "This shows they are going to have to listen to us if we can stay organized, keep marching, keep active." 

Sondra Hale (right) and Katherine King (left) both attended the Women's March of Los Angeles. They are retired UCLA professors.
Josie Huang
Sondra Hale (right) and Katherine King (left) both attended the Women's March of Los Angeles. They are retired UCLA professors.

Participants carried colorful signs, including this one, which KPCC's Josie Huang says is getting a lot of attention.

"It's good for L.A. to come out for something because we like to sit home and watch TV," said Aaron Tidwell, a youth and family minister from Downey, who came with several friends from Lutheran churches.

Earlier this morning, many people faced long lines and very crowded Metro trains and buses as they tried to head Downtown Saturday morning. Metro said on Twitter it reached capacity at 9:30 a.m. — it added more cars to the trains and more frequent service to respond to demand, but long lines were reported throughout the city.

"There was train that came by but it was so packed with people that we couldn't get on," said Lita Siskind, who was waiting for a train at the Vermont/Sunset Red Line station. "Some people actually, they went across the platform to go north to come back south again but I figured it's the same difference so, we're going to wait."

Organizers expected a massive crowd, and it's not just women who were invited. Here's what the event organizers say:

Earlier this week, Deena Katz, co-chair of the march, said she expected "a couple hundred thousand people by Saturday."

Organizers announced a long list of actors, artists, musicians and celebrities who will be attending, including Barbra Streisand, Kerry Washington, Demi Lovato, Jane Fonda, Alfre Woodard, Idina Menzel, Regina Spektor, LaVerne Cox, Keegan Michael Key, Ariana Grande, Jackson Browne, Lance Bass and many more.

Speakers scheduled to appear at Pershing Square between 9-11 a.m. included LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis, California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, LA City Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Mike Bonin, Jerilyn Stapleton of CA NOW, former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Laura Jimenez of California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, among others.

The line-up of speakers at 11 a.m. at L.A. City Hall included Mayor Eric Garcetti, followed by LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn, West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister, Congresswoman Judy Chu, Sue Dunlap of Planned Parenthood, and many more.

How it got started

After the November election, Deena Katz says her husband was worried about how she was holding up.

"I was curled up in a ball," Katz said. "My husband thought I was having a nervous breakdown."

Later that week, Katz was standing in her back yard with her sisters, nieces and her daughter when they heard the announcement of the Women's March on Washington. Katz, who is a producer for "Real Time With Bill Maher," said her organizing instincts kicked into gear.

"The producer in me was like, 'I'm flying everyone there, we're going to go, we're going to march, it's going to be great,'" Katz said.

But after a moment of consideration, Katz said she decided the money she would spend just to travel to D.C. and stay there for the march would be better spent by the causes she cared about, like the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood.

"And then in the next breath, I thought: you know what would be amazing is if we did one here as a sister march," Katz said. 

Katz began emailing and Tweeting at the organizers of the D.C. march — meanwhile, the woman who would become Katz's co-chair was applying for a special permit from the city of Los Angeles to hold a march.

Emiliana Guereca is an event producer and entrepreneur, and she was already tracking down the necessary permits for Pershing Square. Eventually, the two were linked up.

"The two of us just kind of ran with this," Katz said. "This is the epitome of a grassroots organization."

Katz and Guereca have collaborated with the organizers of Women's March in D.C. and in cities all over the country. All of it is powered by donations and volunteers, and it's inspired by the need to do something and be inspired by the goodness in humankind, Katz said.

"We can all wish this different, we can hope this was different," Katz said. "Come the 21st, instead of doing nothing or curling up into that ball, you have to get out. You have to be more proactive."

This story has been updated.