Organizers for the Women’s March of Los Angeles are expecting a crowd in the tens of thousands to gather at Pershing Square on Saturday. That's a far cry from the initial estimate of 1,000 that organizers noted in November on the permit application to the Los Angeles Police Department.
“We didn’t imagine how many people would come,” says Emiliana Guereca, a co-chair for the march who is coordinating logistics. “I was thinking 2,000 to 3,000 people would show up. I didn’t think we’d outgrow Pershing Square.”
As of Tuesday morning, more than 92,000 people had registered for the march at womensmarchla.org, according to organizers. Also, organizers say they expect 20 buses of protesters from Ventura County, 15 buses from Long Beach, eight from Pasadena and as many as 15 from Santa Barbara.
Guereca says Women's March L.A. has raised $30,000 in individual donations between $30 and $100, and that more than 500 people have volunteered through the website to help with march preparations, with hundreds more volunteering through social media.
Sgt. Angel Correa, a spokesman for the Special Events Permit Unit of LAPD, says police are now planning to close streets around Pershing Square to accommodate spillover. “It’s being treated as a significant event in the city,” Correa says.
Leaders of the national Women’s March on Washington have published a wide-ranging statement that calls for support for reproductive rights and equal pay, as well as for issues not traditionally considered “women’s issues,” such as police reform, racial justice and economic policy.
The L.A. event is scheduled to begin with a rally at 9 a.m. Saturday in Pershing Square, followed by a march to City Hall at 10 a.m. There will be a second rally at City Hall beginning at 11 a.m., followed by a festival on Broadway between Third and Sixth streets.
The march is being organized in coordination with the national Women’s March on Washington for the day after Donald Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. It is one of more than 600 “sister marches” planned on all seven continents. (One group of "eco-minded" protesters announced they will march on an expedition ship off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.)
"There are some people who think what we are doing is undermining the president-elect," Guereca says. "It isn't. It's being proactive. This march is the first step toward unifying our communities.”
In all, there will be 49 women's marches in California on Saturday, including separate local events in Beverly Hills and Compton, according to a list on the official website for the Women’s March on Washington.
Many of the initiators of the L.A. march say they met on social media after the election and were as surprised as anyone at the groundswell of support as Saturday approaches. Nearly all of them are organizing a march for the first time.
They come from diverse backgrounds as life coaches, refugee resettlement coordinators, yoga instructors and music and TV producers. Deena Katz, a co-chair of the march, is an executive producer of Dancing With the Stars. Guereca is an event planner who has previously organized half-marathons and cultural festivals.
“So many of us have never done this before,” says Tracy Samson, a volunteer organizer who works as a real estate agent in L.A.
Nevertheless, many of the more established political organizations in L.A. are heeding their call. Those include Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, the Feminist Majority and the National Organization for Women. Speakers scheduled to speak at the rallies in Pershing Square and on the south lawn of City Hall include California Assemblymember Cristina Garcia and Sen. Holly J. Mitchell, L.A. City Councilwoman Nury Martinez and L.A. County Supervisors Janice Hahn and Hilda Solis.
Dozens of protesters painted signs last weekend at gatherings in Silver Lake, Santa Monica, Boyle Heights and downtown. The events were organized via social media.
Paige Cary, 22, an actress and recent graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, was at Downtown Dance & Movement on Sunday afternoon, painting the sign she plans to carry on Saturday in what will be her first protest.
“Basically, I’m everything Trump’s against,” Cary says of her motivation to join the march. “I’m black, I’m a woman, I’m part of the LGBTQ community. And I have a girlfriend, who’s Mexican.”
A gallery owner in Santa Monica, Hannah Sloan, held a sign-painting event last Sunday at Bergamot Station. Sloan painted the word "Pissed" on a white silk sash, which she says she is going to wear in the national march in D.C. on Saturday.
“Equal rights and dignity for all," Sloan says. "When I go to Washington that’s my message.”
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Mayra Sernas, 26, who works for a tech company on the Westside, was painting a sign nearby. Like many women at the event, Sernas says the L.A. women's march will be her first protest.
“There is a lot of negativity right now,” Sernas says of Trump’s impending inauguration. “The positive thing is we’re coming together. We’re starting a lot of conversations about how women feel about our role in the United States.”