CBSN

Women's March returns to the streets with aim to become political force

Last Updated Jan 20, 2018 10:39 PM EST

NEW YORK -- Across the globe, hundreds of thousands rallied Saturday at the second Women's March on the one-year anniversary of President Trump's inauguration and in support of the #MeToo movement against sexual assault and harassment. In Morristown, New Jersey, the state's new first lady told a hushed crowd she was a victim of sexual assault.

The largest protest protest appeared to be in Los Angeles, where Mayor Eric Garcetti's office said 600,000 people marched. Eva Longoria, Natalie Portman, Viola Davis, Alfre Woodard, Scarlett Johansson, Constance Wu, Adam Scott and Rob Reiner were among the celebrities who addressed a Los Angeles crowd. 

Longoria, who starred in TV's "Desperate Housewives," told marchers their presence matters, "especially when those in power seem to have turned their backs on reason and justice."

Portman, an Academy Award winner, talked about feeling sexualized by the entertainment industry from the time her first film, "Leon: The Professional," was released when she was 13 and suggested it's time for "a revolution of desire." In the 1994 film, Portman played a young girl taken in by a hit man after her family is killed.

Woodard urged everyone to register and vote, saying, "the 2018 midterms start now." And Davis spoke with the passion of a preacher as she discussed the nation's history of discrimination and her past as a sexual assault survivor.

An adviser to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said 200,000 people marched in Mr. Trump's hometown. The New York City march snaked through Central Park West and went past his former home at Trump Tower. 

Mr. Trump tweeted Saturday to encourage the protesters to celebrate the "historic milestones" and "wealth creation" since he was sworn into office last January.

The women's march in Washington, D.C., had the feel of a political rally when U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi urged women to run for office and vote. Thousands of people turned out Saturday for the rally at Lincoln Memorial and a march from the National Mall to Lafayette Park. 

Hillary Clinton says women's marches around the United States and the world are "a testament to the power and resilience of women everywhere." 

The Democratic former U.S. first lady tweets she wants to see "that same power in the voting booth this year." She says the Women's March "was a beacon of hope and defiance" last year, when Mr. Trump was inaugurated.

In Chicago, organizers put the number of attendees at 300,000. San Francisco organizers said 60,000 attended, while neighboring Oakland said 70,000 turned out.

Several hundred people also gathered in Palm Beach, Florida, carrying anti-Trump signs as they prepared to march near the president's Mar-a-Lago home on Florida's east coast. A group of women wearing red cloaks and white hats like the characters in the book and TV show "The Handmaid's Tale" marched in formation Saturday, their heads bowed.

Elsewhere around the U.S., people congregated in Houston; Richmond, Virginia; and Rhode Island. In Los Angeles, transportation officials were prepared for hundreds of thousands of marchers to descend on the city's downtown. "It was hear our voice, now it's hear our vote, power to the polls, focusing on the power of the vote," organizer Emiliana Guereca told CBS Los Angeles.

Earlier Saturday, dozens of activists gathered in Rome to denounce violence against women and express support for the #MeToo movement. They were joined by Italian actress and director Asia Argento, who made headlines after alleging in 2017 she had been sexually assaulted by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in the 1990s.  

Millions of people rallied worldwide a year ago at marches for female empowerment. Many opposed Mr. Trump's views on issues including abortion, immigration and LGBT rights. Mr. Trump on Friday delivered new support to the anti-abortion movement he once opposed, speaking by video to thousands of activists at the annual March for Life. 

"I'd be lying if I said that I'm not dispirited and discouraged over having to march yet again to register our opposition to this disastrous first year of the Trump presidency," said Peggy Taylor, a New York City tour guide and Manhattan resident.

She said that last year, she felt "a kind of euphoria" walking through the city with hundreds of thousands of participants.

This year, "the hard reality of what lies ahead of us has sunk in," she said. "I know that we have a long slog ahead of us to undo the damage that this man has inflicted."

US-POLITICS-WOMEN'S-MARCH

People gather prior to the second annual National Women's March on January 20, 2018 in New York City.

Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty

In New York, scheduled speakers included Ashley Bennett, a Democrat who was elected Atlantic County, New Jersey, freeholder last November. Bennett defeated Republican incumbent John Carman, who had mocked the 2017 women's march in Washington, D.C. with a Facebook post asking whether the women would be home in time to cook dinner.

Among the goals of this year's march are getting more Democrats to run for public office and bolstering voter registration.

Last year's march in Washington sparked debate over inclusion, with some transgender minority women complaining that the event seemed designed for white women born female. Some anti-abortion activists said the event did not welcome them.

The organizers for the Washington rally were striving for greater inclusion this year, with Latina and transgender female speakers, said Carmen Perez, another co-chair of the 2017 Washington march. Women in the U.S. illegally, sex workers and those formerly incarcerated are welcome, she said.

Linda Sarsour, one of the four organizers of last year's Washington march, said Las Vegas was slotted for a major rally because it's a strategic swing state that gave Hillary Clinton a narrow win in the presidential election and will have one of the most competitive Senate races in 2018.

The rallies also laid the groundwork for the recent movement that brought a reckoning for powerful men accused of sexual misconduct, Sarsour said.

"I think when women see visible women's leadership, bold and fierce, going up against a very racist, sexist, misogynist administration, it gives you a different level of courage that you may not have felt you had," she said.