DC Women's March brings protesters to National Mall

Next step for movement is policymaking

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The National Mall was filled Saturday morning as protesters descended on the space in front of the Lincoln Memorial for the one-year anniversary of the Women's March.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The National Mall was filled with more than its usual crowd of tourists and joggers Saturday morning as protesters descended on the space in front of the Lincoln Memorial for the one-year anniversary of the Women's March.

A sea of homemade signs and pink hats could be seen marching toward the White House, and several speakers -- including members of Congress -- addressed the group on a day that also marked both the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump's swearing in and the onset of a government shutdown.

The march in Washington, DC, was just one of several events that took place around the country on Saturday to protest the first year of Trump's presidency. But beyond the frustration expressed by those participants, the focus this year has shifted to harnessing the protest energy into something tangible.

"I think we've moved from doing the important culture change work to now starting to think about institutional change and passing policies," said Kelley Robinson, the national organizing director for Planned Parenthood.

Democratic Reps. Val Demings of Florida and Joyce Beatty of Ohio both noted to CNN that they were at last year's march.

"The fight for women's equality and women's rights continues on, and I'm glad to be a part of it," Demings said.

"I was here last year," Beatty said. "I'm proud to return because enough is enough. Fighting for women's power to the polls to make a difference."

The Women's March organizers are holding an event Sunday in Las Vegas titled "Power to the Polls" to kick-start a national initiative aimed at registering voters in swing states.

"Women's March has created a powerful movement that has ignited thousands of activists and new leaders," Tamika D. Mallory, the Women's March co-president, said in a statement on the Power to the Polls website. "In 2018, we must turn our work into action ahead of the midterms. This new initiative will address voter registration and voter suppression head on. We marched for justice in DC, we created our plan in Detroit and now we're bringing the power of the polls to Nevada."

Trump tweeted about the protests happening around the country on Saturday: "Beautiful weather all over our great country, a perfect day for all Women to March. Get out there now to celebrate the historic milestones and unprecedented economic success and wealth creation that has taken place over the last 12 months. Lowest female unemployment in 18 years!"

Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez also talked about moving the Democratic Party's energy forward in upcoming elections, citing the party's organizing efforts.

"Our democracy is at risk here," Perez told CNN on Saturday. "We understand that this is the most serious stress test of our democracy in our nation's history, and we have to do what we've always done in times like this, which is organize, mobilize, elect good democrats, lead with our values, and that's precisely what we've been doing in 2017, and we're going to continue that momentum in 2018."

"It's a time where we're not just showing up, folks are saying that, hey, we actually need to be sitting in those chairs," Robinson said. "You know so everyone who was out in the airports rallying last year and marching in the streets, many of them are now sitting in state legislatures across the country. It's a powerful moment that we're in."

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, called the "energy and activism" from the march "so inspiring."

"In the darkest days of this administration, and there have been some really dark days, what kind of keeps me going is this sense of energy and spirit and the activism of women and men marching for gender equality, reproductive rights, and equality under the law," Blumenthal told CNN.

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