Before the sun rose on Saturday over a Washington gripped by gridlock, pink hats and poster-board signs already were emerging around world.

The second iteration of the Women's March began in cities such as Rome, where crowds raucously rallied on a clear, sunny morning. "Came for the carbonara, stayed for the resistance," read one of the thousands of signs that protesters carried throughout the day.

From Beijing to Buenos Aires, from Denver to Dallas, from California to the Carolinas, hundreds of thousands of activists once again took to the streets to protest the policies and presidency of Donald Trump. The number of participants might not have eclipsed the millions who marched in cities a year ago, but The Resistance still brought out swarms of people from Los Angeles to Philadelphia.

Demonstrators share their feelings about US President Donald Trump as they stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Photo / Salwan Georges
Demonstrators share their feelings about US President Donald Trump as they stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Photo / Salwan Georges

Saturday's march made clear how a movement that began as a protest has evolved. A year of the Trump presidency, coupled with the galvanising experience of the #MeToo moment, has made activists eager to leave a mark on the country's political system. As a result, a key component of Saturday's demonstrations was an effort to harness the enthusiasm behind the Women's March and translate that into political sway at the polls this fall.

Advertisement

"Last year it was about hope. This year it's about strength," said Diane Costello, 67, a retired teacher and member of Moms Against Violence, a group that advocates for gun control, said as she marched through Manhattan.

"2018 is going to be a great year to get more progressive people elected," said Julie Biel-Claussen, 59, executive director of the McHenry Housing Authority in northwest Illinois, as she marched through a chilly Chicago morning.

People participate in a Women's March on South Michigan Avenue, in Chicago. Photo / AP
People participate in a Women's March on South Michigan Avenue, in Chicago. Photo / AP

Outside Washington, one of the biggest demonstrations on Saturday unfolded in New York.

Hundreds of protesters streamed out of the subway stop at Broadway and W. 72nd Street, heading toward the march route along Central Park West. The atmosphere was festive, with people chanting, "This us what democracy looks like!" Hawkers sold knitted pink "pussy hats," #metoo buttons and American flags.

Actress and comedian Whoopi Goldberg gave a short but fiery speech thanking the thousands of people who came out for the march. "I love the fact that I can't see the end of this," she said as she gestured toward the crowd stretching before her. "We started a movement that's still moving. We are here as women to say we're not going to take it any more."

Deanna Santana, 60, of Hamden, Connecticut, a veteran and retired professional in children services, said she came to this year's march to voice her support for immigrants and the right to health care.

"My family is half Mexican and half Puerto Rican, and I recently lost my husband to cancer," she said. "I'm doing this for him."

Women's March demonstrators walk past the White House in Washington. Photo / AP
Women's March demonstrators walk past the White House in Washington. Photo / AP

New York Police Department officers huddled just blocks away from Trump Tower, as protesters clogged public transportation on their way to march. Standing on a delayed subway train, Vicky Haken, 57, said she decided to march for a second year after participating in last year's rally in Washington. "I oppose every policy of this administration," said Haken, a nutritionist. "It's turned out way worse than I feared."

Although many protesters were returning for a second year, many came for the first time - some so young that hadn't been able to vote in the 2016 election.

Madeleine Greenberg, an 18-year-old from Newport Beach, California, came to the march with her three roommates from New York University. She couldn't make it last year because she had high school exams. She said that as excited as she was to join the march, she's just as excited to vote in November.

Saturday's rally in Washington, DC, took place despite the government shutdown that began at midnight. Photo / Salwan Georges
Saturday's rally in Washington, DC, took place despite the government shutdown that began at midnight. Photo / Salwan Georges

"It's really important for people to recognise that every election matters, not just the big presidential election," Greenberg said. "I wasn't able to vote in the last election, so this will be the first election I'll be able to vote."

Across the river in Morristown, New Jersey, a line of charter tour buses unloaded marchers behind town hall, an overflow crowd that Police Chief Peter Demnitz estimated had reached 15,000 by 11:30am, along with some counterprotesters.

Organisers say they chose Morristown because of its Revolutionary War history as the winter encampment site of George Washington's army. Last year's event in Trenton drew and estimated 7500.

"If one man can build a wall, one girl can destroy it ALL!" read a large handmade sign being carried by a young girl making her way down South Street.

Megan Hertlein, a 13-year-old middle school student from Vernon, New Jersey, took an hour-long train ride with her mother, Patti Hertlein, 44, a paralegal. Megan had stayed up late making a poster with a line borrowed from the musical "Hamilton": "Tell your [sister] that she's gotta rise up!"

Nearby, Michael Shapiro, a 55-year-old resident of Belleville, New Jersey, was waving a "Make America Great Again" sign as several marchers tried to hold their signs in front of his. "I'm here to support President Trump," Shapiro said.

Protestors participate in a Women's March highlighting demands for equal rights and equality for women in Cincinnati. Photo / AP
Protestors participate in a Women's March highlighting demands for equal rights and equality for women in Cincinnati. Photo / AP

By late morning, crowds in Chicago stretched from Jackson Street two blocks south to Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park as well as clogged Congress Parkway to Michigan Avenue. Organisers claimed to have eclipsed the 250,000 marchers from last year, despite only 40,000 signing up online.

For some young people, the march was less about politics and more about the normalisation of sexual harassment and the mistreatment of women during the Trump presidency.

Jane Bailey, a 15-year-old from the suburb of Indian Head Park, was marching because she said her rights have been threatened. She and her friends said that since Trump was elected, boys at their high school have become more emboldened to bully girls online. "It really made me angry and want to fight," she said.

The majority of signs protesters carried through Chicago focused on the Republican Party and Trump. Among them: "Ikea has better cabinets," "The GOP is responsible for making America hate again" and "GOP, OMG, WTF."

At last year's march, Dana Hundrieser, 56, of Chicago was not allowed to carry a sign that displayed her political views because she was a federal employee. But she ended her 34-year career in April, when she retired from the Internal Revenue Service. She said Trump's election led to her decision to walk away from a job where she prosecuted large corporate tax cases.

"I thought, 'It's not going to be better,' " she said. Her sign thanked late-night comedians - including Jimmy Kimmel and Trevor Noah - because she said they have provided "huge relief" since last January.

"I never would have guessed my mental health depended on these people," she said.