Los Angeles

‘Hear Our Vote': Thousands Gather for 2018 LA Women's March

Organizers of the Los Angeles March said last year's event was focused on "hear our voice," but this year is shifting to "hear our vote."

Thousands of people began to march through downtown Saturday for the second annual Women's March Los Angeles, with thousands more already gathered at the event's City Hall end point.

The crowd at last year's inaugural WMLA far exceeded the expectations of organizers, who said that about 750,000 people attended, although fire officials estimated the crowd at about 350,000. Organizers predicted at least 200,000 this year.

Officials with both the Los Angeles Fire Department and Los Angeles Police Department said they would not be offering any crowd size estimates.

Police said there are no active threats against the march, which is one of many being held around the country on the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump's inauguration. Last year, an estimated 3 million to 4 million people marched nationwide.

"We are looking to a very successful event, a very active series of marches in the downtown area. The largest consideration is going to be traffic," Los Angeles Police Department Assistant Chief Michel Moore said Friday. "We ask people to use the transit systems, bus and rail. We will have more than sufficient officers that will facilitate. We have no threats against this event."

The Women's March Los Angeles began at 8:30 a.m. at Pershing Square, with attendees starting to march at 10 a.m. and set to reach Grand Park near City Hall at 11 a.m., although thousands have already gathered at the park and thousands still remain near Pershing Square and stretched all through downtown. Politicians, activists and celebrities are scheduled to speak until 4 p.m.

Other marches are being held in Santa Ana and Palm Springs, along with others around California and the country, including in Washington, D.C.

Last year's march saw a wide variety of priorities being advocated, including women's rights, environmental protection, access to health care, criminal justice reform, voting rights, immigrant and LGBTQ rights. The L.A. event sprung up with others around the country after the main march was organized in Washington, D.C., on the day of Trump's inauguration.

The president, who lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton but won the electoral college, has proven to be one of the most polarizing politicians of modern times after taking aggressive stances on immigration, international relations, the environment and other issues while expressing himself in sometimes blunt ways his critics contend are unbecoming of the office he holds.

But it was his perceived attitude and statements toward women during his campaign and before, including an audiotaped conversation in which Trump bragged about kissing and grabbing women by the genitals that was the focus of many marchers last year who carried a message of female empowerment.

Organizers of the Los Angeles March on Facebook said last year's event was focused on "hear our voice," but this year is shifting to "hear our vote." They also said the event is not a protest but a "pro-peace, pro- inclusivity event focused on marginalized voices and the power of voting. Part of our resistance is focusing on how we will use our vote to create the future we want. We respectfully ask that `anti' sentiments are not the focus of this event."

Moore advised attendees to leave backpacks and other bulky items at home and minimize the materials that they take with them. The march is the first large public event to be held since the City Council enacted a new set of rules last October on what is allowed at a public event where First Amendment rights are expressed.

Over concerns that protests or marches in L.A. could see outbreaks of violence similar to ones in Charlottesville, Virginia, and other cities, the City Council approved an expanded list of items banned from public First Amendment events, including firearms, knives, swords, shields, baseball or softball bats, aerosol spray, tear gas, mace, glass bottles, axes, ice picks, nunchucks, Tasers, projectile launchers, bottles or water guns filled with hazardous liquid, open flame torches and ball bearings.

The city also regulates signs and banners and the handles they're mounted on. Signs and banners must be made of soft material such as cloth, plastic or cardboard.

Metal sticks are also banned, while wood or plastic sticks are barred unless they are a quarter-inch or less in thickness, 2 inches or less in width or not exceed three-quarters of an inch in dimension.

Plastic sticks under those dimensions must be hollow and not filled with any material.

Anyone in violation can first receive a warning from a police officer before being cited or arrested.

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