WASHINGTON - Women took to the streets in unexpectedly large numbers in major US cities on Saturday to stage mass protests against US President Donald Trump, in an early indication of the strong public opposition the Republican may face in office.
Hundreds of thousands of women -- many wearing pink knit hats -- fanned out through downtown Washington around the White House and other landmarks, and also thronged parts of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston to rebuke Trump on his first full day in office.
Trump has angered many liberal Americans with comments seen as demeaning to women, Mexicans and Muslims, and worried some abroad with his inaugural vow on Friday to put "America First" in his decision making.
The protests illustrated the depth of the division in the country which is still recovering from the bitterly-fought 2016 election campaign. Trump stunned the world by defeating Democrat Hillary Clinton, the first woman nominated for president by a major US party.
The Women's March on Washington appeared to be larger than the crowds that turned out the previous day to witness Trump's inauguration on the steps of the US Capitol.
Organizers of the protest had told police they expected 200,000 people to attend but the crowd looked substantially bigger than that, stretching for about a mile (1.6 km).
Crowds filled more than ten city blocks of Independence Avenue downtown, with more people spilling into side streets and onto the adjoining National Mall.
Well-known figures attended, including Madonna, who swore while discussing Trump before singing her 1989 hit "Express Yourself" to the crowd, singer Cher and former US Secretary of State John Kerry, who waved to supporters as his walked his yellow Labrador dog, Ben.
Actress America Ferrera, feminist icon Gloria Steinem and film director Michael Moore were among a list of high profile speakers addressing crowds of mostly women gathered in Washington.
"As a woman and as proud, first generation American born to Honduran immigrants, it a been heart-wrenching time to be both a woman and an immigrant in this country. Our dignity, our character, our rights have all been under attack and a platform of hate and division assumed power yesterday," Ferrera said.
Gesturing to the crowd which included many wearing pink and purple hats , Steinem said, "I wish you could see yourselves. It's like an ocean."
Many participants wore knitted pink cat-eared "pussyhats," a reference to Trump's claim in the 2005 video that was made public weeks before the election that he grabbed women by the genitals.
Steinem took aim at Trump's cabinet appointments suggesting many have conflicts of interest.
"Trump and his handlers have found a fox for every chicken coop in Washington and a Twitter finger must not become a trigger finger."
Film director Michael Moore energized the crowd with his opening remark, "We got through day one of the Trump tragedy."
He then held up the front-page of the Washington Post and read the headline, "Trump takes power."
"I don't think so. Here's the power," he said gesturing to the crowd. "
Moore also referenced President Trump's promise to end the loss of jobs in manufacturing in the US, something the president called "American carnage"
"Mr. Trump, we are here to vow to end the Trump carnage," Moore said as he ripped the front-page article in half to cheers from the crowd.
On the marchers Pam Foyster, a 58-year-old resident of Ridgway, Colorado, said Saturday's atmosphere reminded her of 1960s US protests against the Vietnam War.
"I'm 58 years old and I can't believe we are having to do this again," Foyster said in Washington. After the Vietnam War the push for women's rights and civil rights made her "believe anything was possible. But here we are again."
Although his party now controls both the White House and Congress, Trump faces entrenched opposition from segments of the public at the start of his term, a period that is typically more of a honeymoon for a new president.
A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found Trump had the lowest favorability rating of any incoming US president since the 1970s.
Tens of thousands of protesters filled midtown Manhattan and thousands of women also took to the streets of Sydney, London, Tokyo and other cities in Europe and Asia in "sister marches" against Trump.
Trump wrote on Twitter on Saturday that "I am honored to serve you, the great American People, as your 45th President of the United States!" but made no mention of the protests. He attended an interfaith service at Washington National Cathedral and then visited the CIA headquarters.
* LOS ANGELES
Los Angeles police told the L.A. Times that the crowd might have been around 500,000, which would make it the city's largest protest in a decade. People packed into six blocks running up to City Hall and an overflow crowd spilled onto other streets in downtown L.A.
Singer Miley Cyrus and Mayor Eric Garcetti were among the dozens of Hollywood celebrities and dignitaries, many of whom marched behind a vanguard of women motorcyclists clad in black leather.
"I'm here because I believe the future of our country demands participation at a level we have let slide for too long," said Kristy Peterson, a 37-year-old educational consultant who wore an American flag like a cape and a pink hat knitted by her mother.
* NEW YORK CITY
Tens of thousands of people filled midtown Manhattan, marching from the United Nations headquarters along 42nd Street and up Fifth Avenue to Trump Tower, the president's residence and business headquarters before he moved to the White House. Police declined to estimate the crowd size.
"I'm heartened by the turnout and all the sister marches across the world," Megan Schulz, a 42-year-old director of communications from Brooklyn, said. "I think it's a beautiful thing.”
"The scary thing about Donald Trump is that now all the Republicans are acquiescing to him and things are starting to become normalized," Schulz said. "We can't have our president talking about women the way he does.”
Police said between 125,000 and 150,000 marchers gathered on an unseasonably warm day in Grant Park, the site of Barack Obama's victory rally in 2008 after he won the presidential election that year. Speakers included Muslim leaders and activists for immigrant and transgender rights. Officials closed access to the park once it became full and organizers suspended a planned march through the city's downtown area because of the crowd's size, though some marched on anyway.
"We just can't stand by and let him work his negative ways on this county," Constance Cameron, a 68-year-old high-school English teacher, said.
US Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the best-known figures of the Democratic Party's liberal wing, joined Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and U.S. Senator Edward Markey at Boston Common.
"We are here, we will not be silent, we will not play dead, we will fight for what we believe in," Warren told a crowd estimated at 120,000 to 125,000 people, according to CNN, which cited a senior police official.
A peaceful crowd of marchers headed to City Hall of the Canadian city and onwards to the U.S. consulate building, with a police supervisor estimating that between 10,000 and 13,000 people were in attendance. An all-female list of speakers included a city councillor, union representative and indigenous elders and activists, while an effigy of Trump was left in battered shape by a group of school-age girls.
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