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Women's marches in NYC, on Long Island draw smaller crowds

The turnout at marches at Columbus Circle and Foley Square in Manhattan drew thousands, nowhere near the 120,000 in 2018. On Long Island, about 100 took part. (Credit: David Handschuh)

What appeared to be New York City's smallest crowds yet of the Women's March movement, born at the dawn of the Donald Trump presidency, gathered in Manhattan on Saturday to protest the incumbent the year he's up for reelection.

In separate events beginning 3.8 miles apart at Columbus Circle and Foley Square — the movement had fractured before last year's rally, amid accusations of anti-Semitism and homophobia among some organizers — thousands demonstrated on a snowy Saturday in 2020. The demonstrators criticized Trump's support for curbing abortion, allowing religious employers to restrict workers' insurance plans from birth control, and other right-leaning policies, such as strict enforcement of immigration laws.

“We’re telling the world that we will not stand for an administration that politicizes and demeans and degrades the essence of who we are," said Jacquelyn Marrero, 37, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Greater New York Action Fund, its lobbying arm. "We’re women. We’re humans.”

The first Women's March was in Washington, D.C., the day after Donald Trump's inauguration, with sister installments in places across the United States like New York City. In some places, those protests surpassed Trump's inauguration crowd size — 300,000 to 600,000 people, according to published reports.

After the 2017 Women's March, the mayor's office estimated the Women's March crowd in Manhattan to be 400,000. The following year's attendance exceeded 120,000, the mayor's office said then

But attendance this year and last year dwindled to a fraction of those sizes, following fissures in the movement that led some politicians to pull out.

On Sunday, Freddi Goldstein, the chief spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, said the city’s estimate for 2020 is about 10,000 attendees. 

Signs at the 2020 event in New York City included statements such as “Boys will be boys HELD ACCOUNTABLE for their ACTIONS” (with the second “boys” crossed out), and “THE FUTURE is Female.”

Acire Polight, 26, of Bushwick, Brooklyn, said she had been to every women’s march since the first in 2017. She wore a pin for Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren, whom she said she favored because of her promises of universal health care, free college and forgiving student-loan debt.

”We have a crazy person in the presidency right now,” Polight said.

Victoria Fearn, 20, of Inwood, Manhattan, held signs reading, "Babes AGAINST Bigots" and "RESIST," with a multicolored fist and the Venus symbol, made glittery and crowned.

A waitress at a live music venue, she recounted sexual harassment and other mistreatment: male customers grabbing her by the arm, and even the neck, "being very touchy-feely."

"As a young woman, I'm treated with a lot of disrespect," she said. "especially by older men."

Alexis Androulakis, 32, and Christina Basias, 30, business partners and engaged to be married, were tabling for their cosmetics brand Fempower Beauty, meant for all, including people who are transgender, who otherwise do not identify with traditional notions of gender, or for whom most cosmetics don't work with their tone.

"Every time a femme stands up for herself, she stands up for all womxn," their sign said, using an alternate spelling meant for inclusivity. The lipstick, with shades Lilith, Eve, Adam and Serpent as rejoinders to traditional Biblical notions, sells for $25.

Max Keisling, 23, a schoolteacher living in Harlem, held a sign from the Freedom Socialist Party: "WOMEN WILL LEAD THE REVOLUTION."

At Resistance Corner on Nesconset Highway in Port Jefferson Station, protesters included Phyllis Jackson, 59, of Patchogue, who carried an anti-Trump sign and said she had attended every Women's March since 2017.

"A woman is a person. A woman could be president, but this country is still so bigoted and anti-women that they still want us in the kitchen," she said. "That's why so many people embrace this."

The 2020 crowd size was about 100. In 2017, it was 2,000.

With Jean-Paul Salamanca

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