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WASHINGTON — Beset by internal wrangling, divergent strategies and perhaps a bit of protest fatigue in some quarters, Women's March activists turned out by the thousands Saturday, hoping that grit and determination might make up for the absence of the millions who hit the streets across the country in 2017.
Like the first protest a day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, the national Women's March rallied in Washington, D.C., while sister marches took place in Chicago, New York, Milwaukee, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, among other cities.
Marches and events were also held across five continents in cities like Oslo, Norway; Chiang Mai, Thailand; and Lagos, Nigeria.
Organizers had expected less than 10,000 in D.C. for this year's "Women Rising" march — about a tenth of the 100,000 or so who turned out last year on an equally snowy and windy day, and a fraction of the 500,000 who jammed the street in 2017.
“We want decency brought to the White House, and we are a nation to be respected and not be about hatred,” said Therese Moran-Conlon, of Eldersburg, Maryland, who braved the wintry weather in Washington to protest with her husband, Mike. “It’s historic.”
It was the first appearance at the D.C. march for the 56-year-old psychotherapist who attended a “small but very powerful” march in Annapolis, Maryland, last year. She called the march "a fight against good and evil.”
While there were many issues at stake — from abortion rights to civil rights to global warming — opposition to Trump was a unifying theme to many.
"One, we are in an election year," said Carmen Perez, an original co-chair of the Women's March. "Two, we are in potential war conversations, with the fact the U.S. has struck another country."
On the Women Rising Facebook page, D.C. organizers said this year's protest arrived with "renewed energy to take on Trumpism and a plan to build with a growing community of activists." They said the marchers "will enter 2020 ready to finish what we started."
In Sarasota, Florida, the sign Mimi Fiedler carried was blunt: "Impeach Putin's Puppet." Her fellow marcher, Linda Postlewaite, had a similar message: "Wake up R's. Trump is a crook."
In Chicago, where organizers estimated a turnout at 10,000 people, marchers completed the planned route from Grant Park to Federal Plaza, then the more restless protesters continued through downtown and made their way to Trump Tower, where the march turned into a rally of a couple hundred people.
Likewise in Washington, the march ended in front of the Trump International Hotel, steps away from Freedom Plaza. A small group of about 100 protesters, surrounded by a larger collective of marchers, performed “A Rapist in Your Path,” the thud of drums emphasizing their every move.
Right when the march officially ended, the crowd mostly dispersed — but shouts continued, as protesters called for Trump to go to jail. Another key rallying cry: “I believe we can win."
Marches were held in a variety of cities, large and small. In Akron, Ohio, freezing rain and snow delayed the march, forcing many of the participants indoors. In Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where about 500 people participated, many attended a Planned Parenthood workshop on protecting reproductive rights. In Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, protesters sprinkled their signs with a bit of humor, one reading: "It's so bad even introverts are here."
In Austin, nearly 3,500 people rallied at the Texas State Capitol. Qurrat Thakur, who brought along her daughter and niece, held a sign saying, “Respect my Existence or Expect Resistance."
Thakur said she attended the Austin event in hopes it would spark change so the girls by her side would not have to fight the same fight as the women who came before them.
“Everyone needs to be treated equally,” Thakur said. “I’m hoping to turn my daughter and niece into social justice warriors.”
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In New York City, activists battled the cold and snow as they marched along the edge of Central park and down Sixth Avenue.
“This sense of community is life-changing,” said marcher Belinda Jones of West Connecticut. “This is joyous.”
The D.C. march focused on a smaller slate of issues, shifting away from its original 10-point program into three central themes: reproductive rights, immigration and climate change. Similarly, Chicago's Women's March featured a "gallery of issues," highlighting voting, the census, climate justice, gun violence prevention and women's health.
"It's just trying to create a very festive atmosphere, but one that encourages our marchers to educate themselves on the issues and activate around them," said Chicago march organizer Harlene Ellin. "We want people not just to march, but to go out and do something."
To many women, the theme of the day was about persistence.
In Sarasota, Susie Sherwood fought the wind coming off the Gulf Coast as she held a sign reading, "Let's leave this world a better place for children."
"We've been doing this since 2016," she said, "and are not giving up."
In Washington, humanitarian and activist Andrea Waters King told the crowd that it was not good enough to remember the gains of the past, like the women's right to vote.
“We must see this march as a time of rededication and renewal ... this can be the decade that ushers in new freedom.”
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In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot noted that many women have been elected to office "up and down the country," but she quickly added: "We're not resting."
She also urged marchers not to let their passions about individual issues divide them: "It is crucial that we stay united."
Contributing: Heather Osbourne of the Austin American-Statesman in Austin, Texas; Anna Bryson of the Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, Florida; Rebecca King of northjersey.com in New York City; Scott Broden of the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, Tennessee; and Jorge Ortiz, USA TODAY.
USA TODAY's Doug Stanglin reported from McLean, Virginia; Joshua Bote from Washington, D.C.; and Grace Hauck in Chicago.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Women's March 2020: Thousands protest in DC, NYC, Chicago