Women skip work in US on day of protest

By Sandhya Somashekhar, Perry Stein, Michael Alison Chandler

Scores of women participating in a 'Day Without a Woman' march make their way from Freedom Plaza to Lafayette Park past the White House. Photo / Washington Post
Scores of women participating in a 'Day Without a Woman' march make their way from Freedom Plaza to Lafayette Park past the White House. Photo / Washington Post

Women's March on Washington organisers made their first large-scale attempt today to build on the momentum of their January march.

They called on women across the US to skip work and take to the streets to resist the policies of the new presidential Administration.

The result was a smaller crowd with a harder-edged concept than the earlier march.

In the Washington, DC, region, the large number of teacher time-off requests prompted public school districts in Alexandria, Virginia, and Prince George's County, Maryland, to close, along with at least nine charter schools in the District.

In New York, 13 women, including top organisers of the January Women's March, were arrested as they blocked traffic and made a "human wall" around Trump International Hotel. Elsewhere, the demonstrations were more subdued.

In the nation's capital, protesters swarmed public spaces in front of the White House, Capitol and Labour Department.

From Santa Cruz, California, to Chicago to Philadelphia, women held rallies aimed at drawing attention to women's roles in the work force and to criticise government actions they view as anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-woman.

"Trump is afraid of us," yelled Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organisation for Women, at a rally outside the White House. "You know who else should be afraid of us? Any member of Congress who does not respect our rights."

"Day Without a Woman" coincided with International Women's Day and sparked conversations about women in the workforce and disparate wages between men and women. The day brought a new edge to a feminist movement that gained steam the day after President Donald Trump's inauguration, when more than a million people in the District and across the country spilled into the streets.

Many of them wore pink "pussyhats," a wry reference to a term Trump has used to describe female genitalia, and held cheeky signs to signal their displeasure at the new president's tone and policies.

If those gatherings had a jubilant feel, the actions today were decidedly more strident as protesters were countering policies that have since been implemented or proposed by the Trump Administration.

In a public park in front of the White House, hundreds of men and women protested against the "Mexico City policy," known by critics as the "global gag rule," which says that foreign nonprofits providing abortions will forfeit aid from the US Government. Trump reinstated the Reagan-era rule on one of his first days as president.

"Resist Trump, stop the gag," they chanted.

Since the Women's March, some conservatives have written off the movement because of its embrace of certain liberal causes, such as abortion rights and Palestinian rights. Some critics felt today's strike put a burden on poor women who could least afford a day off work.

Jody Ellenby, a school teacher who skipped work, attended two protests and acknowledged that her job, which offers paid leave, allowed her to go on strike with little consequence.

"I hope to stand in solidarity with women who can't strike today, and I hope to be a voice for women who have seen violence in the past," Ellenby said. "I am a privileged person, but I hope to use that privilege to stand for others who may not be able to."

Trump didn't respond to the protests but tweeted to coincide with International Women's Day, saying, "I have tremendous respect for women and the many roles they serve that are vital to the fabric of our society and our economy".

- Washington Post

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