Home > News > This year’s Women’s Marchers weren’t focused on the leadership controversy. They were all about local and national political organizing.
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This year’s Women’s Marchers weren’t focused on the leadership controversy. They were all about local and national political organizing.

- January 22, 2019
The Women’s March on Jan. 19. (Evelyn Hockstein for The Washington Post)

This weekend, between 653,000 and 718,000 people marched in 325 events around the United States as part of the 2019 Women’s March, according to the Crowd Counting Consortium, which is still finalizing its count. Media coverage focused on allegations of anti-Semitism against the national Women’s March organizers.

But the movement is much more than the eponymous group and its controversy. In fact, only 18 percent of the crowd’s participants reported being a member of the organizational coalition that coordinated the Women’s March, including the national Women’s March group. They were, rather, people who have been working in local elections and politics, who showed up at this third annual march to punctuate those efforts.

In many ways, the original Women’s March on Jan. 21, 2017, ignited the movement to challenge President Trump’s administration and its policies, a movement that is still underway. Since then, millions of people have demonstrated in support of a range of progressive issues — women’s rights, science, gun safety, and more. Although each protest has been different — with a different focus and a different organizing coalition — there’s been an impressive degree of overlap among the events, the organizations that sponsored them and the people who participated. For instance, at the Women’s March this past weekend, not only did half the participants report attending the first Women’s March in 2017, but more than a quarter of them said they’d attended the demonstration against gun violence organized by the Parkland students, the March for Our Lives in March 2018.

[interstitial_link url=”https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/10/06/heres-why-the-protests-against-kavanaughs-confirmation-and-trumps-administration-wont-go-away”]Here’s why the protests against the Trump administration won’t go away.[/interstitial_link]

In an ongoing research project, I have been collecting data from participants of all these marches. With a multi-person research team, I have surveyed attendees at all the large protest events in Washington, snaking through these crowds sampling every fifth person at designated increments within the staging area to gather a field approximation of a random sample. We have collected data from 2,130 protest participants at eight protest events, including all three women’s marches.

Like the previous marches that have challenged the Trump administration’s policies, the third Women’s March turned out more women than men, and protesters came from a highly educated portion of the U.S. population. Although 80 percent of participants listed standing up for women’s rights as a reason for joining the event, 76 percent of the crowd said they were motivated by opposition to President Trump and his policies.

Those who attended this weekend’s event have been doing more than marching in the streets; they are also active in politics in their congressional districts. Three-quarters of the march’s participants followed the advice of the numerous organizations that have been working with the movement for the past two years and voted in the midterm elections. This rate of voting is much higher than the 49 percent turnout in the 2018 election that experts reported broke records.

But many of them did much more than vote: Forty-four percent also reported working with the Democratic Party before the 2018 midterm elections, and over a quarter (28 percent) reported working with an individual candidate’s campaign. They donated money, canvassed, wrote postcards and phone-banked for candidates in their communities.

[interstitial_link url=”https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/05/31/these-are-the-four-largest-protests-since-trump-was-inaugurated/”]These are the 4 largest protests since Trump was inaugurated[/interstitial_link]

This movement against the Trump administration and its policies was created by merging an unsteady coalition of left-leaning organizations and interests to join forces against a common opponent. Its success has been facilitated by groups — including the national Women’s March group — that employ distributed organizing to get the job done in innovative ways, engaging individuals and organizations to work for social change in the streets, in their communities and in congressional districts across the country. In part because of all these efforts, Trump is facing his second two years in office with a House of Representatives led by his opposition.

While the national Women’s March group continues to play defense, all signs point to the fact that the movement itself is alive and well. On the March’s third anniversary, despite severely cold weather and cancellations in places such as Trenton, N.J., Dayton, Ohio, and Annapolis, Md., hundreds of thousands of people made it very clear that they intend to keep marching, voting and doing much more all the way up to the 2020 election.

Correction: An earlier version of this article gave the wrong figures for attendance at the 2019 Women’s March. We regret the error.

Dana R. Fisher is a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland. Her new book “American Resistance” is forthcoming at Columbia University Press.