Over 60,000 Gather for Women’s March in Toronto

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‘You are part of history right now,’ Toronto women’s march told

A spirited crowd of thousands marched from Queen’s Park to Nathan Phillips Square on Saturday in support of women’s and human rights, a day after Donald Trump’s inauguration as U.S. president.

They came by the thousands — women and girls of all ages and backgrounds, many with their families — to march from Queen’s Park, past the U.S. consulate, to Nathan Phillips Square in a show of solidarity just two days into Donald Trump’s presidency.

And when the speeches that capped a powerful and peaceful three-hour demonstration for women’s and human rights on Saturday had run themselves out, no one wanted to go home.

Not the organizers. Not the women decked out in knitted pink “pussy” hats. Not the youngest in the crowd. And not the oldest. Not even after the public address system quit.

“Remember this moment,” Deb Parent, one of the organizers, told the crowd that had gathered in support of the Women’s March on Washington. The sea of people took more than half an hour to empty from the march route and fill out the square, with lines several people deep on the balconies.

“Remember what it feels like,” said Parent, who said she had never seen such a large turnout at a women’s rights event. She seemed stunned and amazed, as did co-organizer Kavita Dogra and others who helped make the march happen. Planning began immediately after the U.S. election on Nov. 8.

“We want you to know that you are part of history right now,” said one speaker. “You are part of a global uprising.”

It was an unforgettable scene, with “Love Trumps Hate” among the more common messages on display on placards — others included “Fight Like a Girl,” “This Pussy Grabs Back” and “Standing With Our American Sisters.” One protester carried an upside down American flag, a sign of distress, and another foisted a foam fist with a raised middle finger and Trump’s name emblazoned below it.

Organizers estimated a crowd of more than 50,000, a number the Star could not verify.

Similar scenes with smaller crowds played out elsewhere in Canada, including events in Ottawa, Halifax and Montreal. While a blizzard scuttled a march planned in St. John’s, N.L., supporters there joined a “virtual” rally on social media.

“We may be the only place in the world that is snowed out of our own rally, but we won’t let a bit of weather stop us,” organizers wrote in a Facebook post.

Officials in Washington estimated at least 500,000 people turned out for the march in the U.S. capital.

Roughly 600 Canadian travellers, most of them women, made the overnight trek on chartered buses from Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Windsor to participate in that march.

There were hundreds of other protests organized in more than 30 countries.

In Toronto, marchers filled the muddy south lawn at Queen’s Park at noon to listen to impassioned speeches that denounced misogyny, racism, Islamophobia and inequality, and celebrated diversity.

Mary Wyse, 55, of Waterloo, came with her sister and friends to “support the other women and to show that we will not be marginalized.

“I am so disappointed with (Trump),” she said. “He is so misogynistic and yet he was able to win.”

Her friend Sandra Voisin, 59, of Milton, a retired high school teacher, said she felt it was “important that we show solidarity, not just for women but for all the different groups that Trump is attempting to marginalize. This isn’t just about women at all. That’s really an excuse, a headline, but we all need to stick together.”

Leslie Carlin, 57, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto’s faculty of medicine, was part of a contingent representing Democrats Abroad. An American citizen originally from California, Carlin came out because, she said, “the person sitting in the White House should not be there.”

Now, it’s about hope, said Carlin, that in “fours years minus one day this can be over.”

Her 14-year-old daughter, Talia Carlin-Coleman, came along because “Donald Trump is president and I don’t agree with that.”

Sitting on her grandfather’s shoulder, with a sign that read, “Be brave, choose love,” 7-year-old Amaris Williams, of Mississauga, said she was there because “people are important and so are women.”

For many, the gathering was the perfect morning-after antidote for a post-inauguration emotional hangover.

“This is what I needed after yesterday,” said teacher Anne-Marie Longpre, 33. “It was upsetting, so I just needed to be surrounded by my people and be reminded that there are this many people on the right side of history.”

“I am so excited,” said Erin Conway, 36, standing at Queen’s Park before the march started. “I look south on University Ave. and all I can see are people here for the march. There are people from various walks of life and backgrounds. It’s a really positive vibe today and I’m excited for what’s going to happen tomorrow. Some people are scared this momentum will end but I don’t think it’ll stop today.”

Marchers headed south, led by Toronto police, taking up all eight lanes of University Ave. The march pinched into four lanes outside the U.S. consulate, where barricades, mounted police and officers on bicycles created a buffer outside the building. A fire truck and firefighters were also posted there, though none of the precautions proved necessary.

The rally ended at Toronto City Hall, where, after more speeches, marchers reluctantly headed home around 3 p.m.

During last year’s presidential campaign there were accusations of sexual misconduct against President Donald Trump. He also came under attack from those who felt some of his comments toward women were disrespectful.

With files from The Canadian Press

Photo: Jim Rankin (Toronto Star)