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Tens of thousands turn out for Women's March in downtown Los Angeles

People reflect one year after the Women's March about why they are still marching.

Calling for equal rights for women and waving "Dump Trump" signs, tens of thousands of demonstrators converged on downtown Los Angeles on Saturday to take part in the second Women's March in L.A., one of dozens of similar protests held around the country.

After an early morning rally in Pershing Square, demonstrators marched to Grand Park, clogging the streets around City Hall. There, a number of celebrity speakers addressed the crowd, including actresses Viola Davis, Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman and Laverne Cox.

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Delivering the most impassioned speech of the day, Davis reminded the women in the crowd that they must fight for their liberties and their rights, saying that "it is through human dedication and effort that we move forward."

"I am speaking today not just for the MeToos," she said, "because I am a MeToo. But when I raise my hand I am aware of all the women who are still in silence, the women who are faceless, the women who don't have the money and who don't have the constitution and who don't have the confidence and who don't have the images in our media that gives them a sense of self-worth to break their silence."

She urged everyone to be politically active and to fight for their cause.

"No one and nothing can be great unless it costs you something," she said. "We've got to bring up everyone with us. I stand in solidarity with all women who raise their hands … and my hope for the future is that we never go back."

Time-lapse video taken from the Los Angeles Times building shows marchers arriving in the City Hall area in downtown L.A. between 10:15 a.m. and noon Saturday. (Video by Calvin Alagot / Los Angeles Times)

Johansson spoke out about the power men have long held over women.

"I had many relationships where the power dynamic was so off that I had to create a narrative where I was the cool girl," she told the crowd. "It allowed me to have the approval that women are conditioned to need. … Moving forward means my daughter growing up in a world where she doesn't have to become a victim of what had become the social norm."

Organizers of the march said they expected more than 200,000 people. Several hundred thousand attended last year's event, which came one day after President Trump's inauguration in what many consider one of the most divisive elections in recent memory.

Activists said their main objectives include "ending violence, protection of reproductive rights, LGBTQIA rights, workers' rights, civil rights, disability rights, immigrant rights, Indigenous people's rights and environmental justice."

Scarlett Cunningham-Young, 11, stood near 5th and Hill streets next to several of her friends and their families holding a sign with a quote from Malala Yousafzai: "I raise my voice not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be Her'd." It was her second year attending the Women's March, and she said she felt inspired being around thousands of other demonstrators.

"I hope that this country wakes up and realizes that women and girls have voices too," she said.

Her mother, Shea Cunningham, 46, said she marched in Washington, D.C., last year because she was so outraged over Trump's election.

Cunningham worries about the state of healthcare and the environment. She said she finds the tension with North Korea and widespread xenophobia especially disturbing.

But she said the silver lining is that her daughter has been able to really participate in democracy and has developed a strong moral compass.

"We're stuck in a nightmare," she said. "It feels like an absurdist reality. It's almost like a dark comedy, but it's not funny."

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Saturday's event coincided with the rise of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements and was being held in conjunction with similar marches planned around the country.

Gary Garcia, 55, said he was on hand to support his wife and women's issues and to show support for protections for "Dreamers," young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Protected status for Dreamers, which has allowed them to live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation, could expire soon as Trump tries to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Garcia, principal of Marshall High School, said many of his students are Dreamers and "they're really stressed out." He held a sign reading, "Dreamers must stay in the country they know."

Garcia and his wife, who stood near the corner of 5th and Hill streets, said they left their home in Mid-City at 7 a.m. to get downtown in time for the march. They also attended last year's event.

Garcia said he wants to continue to send a message to President Trump that his policies are unacceptable.

"If we don't protest, it implies acceptance," he said. "There's so much that's wrong right now."

Many parents, like Malika Dawson, 23, brought their children. Dawson carried daughter Khlo, 1, in a baby carrier strapped to her body.

"To see all these people who want equality just like me, it gives me hope for my daughter in the future, especially when you see people my age and younger because we're the next generation of leaders," Dawson said. She held up a sign that on one side read, "Girls just wanna have FUNdamental human rights," and on the flip side said, "If you don't fight for all women, you fight for no women."

"I love your sign!" one marcher shouted at Dawson, whose young daughter stared mesmerized at the thousands of chanting marchers with their colorful signs.

"I want to bring my daughter to … events like this throughout her lifetime," Dawson said. "Hopefully, it's not necessary in the future to still protest for women's rights, but I want her to know she can stand up and take action."

Summer Holl, 43, brought her daughter, Esme, 10.

"We feel so angry and upset, and so isolated in that anger with the country being so divided," said Holl, who got up at 6 a.m. to make the trip from their home in Agoura to downtown L.A. "To come out to the march and see all the people … we know we're not alone."

Holl held up a multicolored sign that said, "We All Should Be Feminists," while Esme carried a sign with a rainbow on a white background that read, "All We Need is Peace."

Holl said that marching is an "American way to speak our truth" and that she wanted to share the experience with her daughter. The two were surrounded by demonstrators who held up signs for peace, love and equality.

"It's so important to steal the microphone away from the Trump administration and to speak our truth," Holl said.

Lenora Marouani, 33, brought her 2- and 5-year-old daughters to the march. She said she wants them to understand what it means to stand up for women, immigrants and black lives.

Marouani, who owns a home goods store in Manhattan Beach, carried a sign urging people to vote in the June 5 statewide primary election.

"This is going to be a really fantastic year for women," she said. "We have the power."

Marouani said she and her eldest daughter Pash practiced chanting lines from the popular Beyonce song, "Run the world." She would say "Who run the world?" and Pash would yell "Girls!"

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"I want to instill that notion in her," she said. "It's not that we're dissing boys, but we have to work twice as hard and you instill empowerment at a young age."

Jessica Bautista, 17, sold bacon-wrapped hot dogs with her sister near the speakers' stage. The sisters were helping their parents, who had their own hot dog carts nearby.

Bautista had taped a sign to her cart reading, "Trump is a puppet." She said she has worked at many marches recently, but this one especially resonated with her. She wanted to show her solidarity with other woman but also immigrant rights advocates..

She said she worries Trump will build the border wall and about his other immigration policies. Bautista, who was born in the U.S., said her parents are both undocumented immigrants from Mexico.

"I feel we need a new president," she said, "because he's making really bad choices."

Marcher Ali Davis held up a sign that read, "Grab 'Em By the Ballot Box," and stressed that it's important for demonstrators to remain politically active.

"A protest is great, but if you don't follow that up by bothering your politicians and going to vote, it doesn't do much," said Davis, 46. Last year, she said, she was disturbed that "so many friends and family members weren't registered and didn't bother to vote."

"You have to gently but firmly bug people to vote" in 2018, Davis said.

Davis, who came to the march alone by train, said she felt the magnitude of the event from the beginning.

"From the minute I stepped on the train, it filled my heart to see so many people," she said.

A handful of Trump supporters gathered in front of the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters, where they faced off with demonstrators. They waved signs saying, "Make America Great Again," and "God Bless Donald Trump."

Women's march volunteers held hands, blocking the group from some 50 counter-protesters. Dozens of LAPD officers stood guard.

The two groups hurled insults at each other, with the Trump supporters yelling, "Go back to Mexico," and the marchers yelling, "Go home, racists."

But most of the marchers were peaceful, and police reported no arrests or major incidents.

Anna-Jean Jones, 30, said she was happy that she brought her two young daughters, Ayana Winn, 11, and Leah-Miya Winn, 7, who carried signs that read, "Support women now," and "There is no force equal to a women determined to rise."

"I brought two beautiful young daughters into the world," she said, "and I'm going to advocate for them."

UPDATES:

4:45 p.m.: This article was updated with new comments from Jessica Bautista.

2:45 p.m.: This article was updated with new comments from Ali Davis.

2:10 p.m.: This article was updated with new information about Trump supporters facing off with counter-demonstrators.

1:45 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from speeches by actresses Viola Davis and Scarlett Johansson.

12:25 p.m. This article was updated with additional comments from marcher Summer Holl.

11:20 a.m.: This article was updated with additional comments from marcher Malika Dawson.

11:10 a.m.: This article was updated with additional comments from marchers.

10:55 a.m.: This article was updated with additional comments from demonstrators.

10:30 a.m.: This article was updated with more comments from demonstrators.

10 a.m.: This article was updated with new comments from demonstrators.

9:05 a.m.: This article was updated with new information about the weather.

This article was originally posted at 8:40 a.m.

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