More participants than expected seemed to show up at many of them. In Chicago, media outlets reported that organizers at one point said streets were so crowded with people that they did not think they could march. In D.C., officials estimated turnout at 500,000 — more than double the 200,000 people initially expected to attend..
Back home, Sgt. Warren Pickard, an Atlanta Police Department spokesman, said he had not seen a march like the one here “in my 28-year career.” The size of the crowd was comparable to the city’s annual AJC Peachtree Road Race, an event that draws about 55,000 runners and is believed to be the largest 10k race in the country (and, organizers claim, the world).
As things got underway early Saturday afternoon at the Center for Civil and Human Rights near the city’s downtown Centennial Park, marchers even began celebrating the rain.
“It’s just water,” said Sue Hunter and Terry Hamrick, who rode to the center on MARTA, starting at the Midtown Arts Center station. “We’re still going to go out there and march for justice.”
Lee Ann Jones, 59, of Atlanta, said the last time she had been to the center was to celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling on same-sex marriage. Jones said she came Saturday “to bring some visibility to social justice issues.”
Allison Perry, of Decatur, brought along her 4-½-year-old daughter, Vivienne: “I feel like a lot of our rights are being taken away,” she said.
A sense of calm permeated the crowd. Signs were everywhere. Among them: “A woman’s place is in the revolution” and “Hands off my uterus.” Families seemed to flood any empty spaces, with some saying they had neither the time or money to get to Washington but wanted to express themselves in the best place they knew: At home. Colorful umbrellas, ponchos and rain jackets dotted the scene.
The march drew many prominent Democrats including former gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter, U.S. Reps. John Lewis and Hank Johnson, state House Democratic Minority Leader Stacey Abrams and others.
“We know from whence we came and we’re not going back,” former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin said.
Lewis — who has clashed with Trump — drew a hero's welcome from supporters in his hometown. He helped lead the march, often drawing chants of support as he offered his own encouragement: "Speak up, speak out and find a way to get in the way," he said.
Abrams, noting that state lawmakers in the GOP-led General Assembly are already back in session, urged marchers to continue the fight. “The resistance isn’t in Washington DC, it’s in Atlanta, GA,” Abrams said.
No problems were reported: “The march has been peaceful and without incident,” Pickard said.
And they seemed to inspire even the youngest attendees.
For 11-year-old Amelia Mevers, the protest was her first real brush with politics. She decided to take part after reading a quote from Mahatma Gandhi in class.
“It motivated me to be the change I want to see in the world,” the middle-schooler said.
She said the march was crowded and so loud she couldn’t hear the speakers. And it moved a lot slower than she had expected. But she said she enjoyed the experience and would do it again.
“I thought it was amazing because I had never seen so many people all gathered together,” Mevers said. “We’ve learned about the civil rights marches, but I’d never seen anything like this.