Given that it was Los Angeles, there was no surprise that a solid list of actors and musicians spoke and performed at the women's march on Saturday. The real surprise was how many people showed up. Organizers had hoped for 80,000 and got as many as 750,000. Though some estimates were significantly lower, it appears that, even by conservative counts, more opponents of the new Trump administration turned out in LA than in any of the 650 other cities and towns that held similar gatherings over the weekend, including the key protest march on the Mall in Washington that drew half a million.
Unless one is gullible enough to believe the fantastical claims of Donald Trump and his communications team, the very diverse L.A. crowd was at least double the size of the mostly white pro-Trump cohort that came to the capital for the president's inauguration. Added together, all the marches around the country and in other cities across the globe drew at least 2 million and as high as 3 million people, based on official estimates (which, coincidentally, is not far off Hillary Clinton's edge in the popular vote on Nov. 8.)
The L.A. march was planned to flow from Pershing Square to City Hall via Broadway. However, there were so many more attendees than expected, the stream of people spilled over into three parallel streets. Most of the drivers brought to a standstill in the resulting traffic snarl appeared to tolerate their predicament stoically and many enthusiastically honked their horns and gave thumbs up to the protesters. Trump supporters were scarce or silent.
Those who doubled back to the third and final stage of the march in the Jewelry District were entertained and cajoled for several hours by singers and celebrities, including Kerry Washington, Jackson Browne, Alfre Woodard, U2's the Edge, Keegan-Michael Key, Debbie Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Rob Reiner, Christine Lahti, Helen Reddy, Melissa Manchester and many more.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who has won multiple Emmys for her portrayal of a hilariously incompetent fictional president, Selina Meyer, on the HBO series "Veep," took the stage to marvel at how reality has outstripped even the wildest imagination of screenwriters. Calling Trump "a fool, a dolt, a clown," Louis-Dreyfus said, "President Selina Meyer has got nothing on the current president." Speaking directly to Trump, she raised a point that was probably echoed in all the marches: "We have not forgotten that you lost the popular vote and you have no mandate and no majority."
Of course Trump does have the power, so the question has to be asked whether public outpourings of the president's critics, no matter how enormous and unprecedented, will have lasting political effect. Certainly, the weekend marches will not have accomplished much if they were merely frustrated bursts of anger and disappointment that quickly fade away. Over and over again, speakers at the L.A. event emphasized the importance of staying involved in the political process, from the grass roots up.
One thing that could keep the energy alive is the full frontal assault from the Trump administration and the Republican Congress against pretty much every issue of concern to those who adored Barack Obama and voted for both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — from voting rights, Planned Parenthood and climate change to Obamacare, environmental protection and immigration. There is nothing that will forge unity among the very disparate millions of people who are alarmed by Trump's unfolding presidency like the feeling that everyone is under attack. Trump has become a great unifier — for his opponents.
In the closing words of an impassioned speech late Saturday afternoon, actress Natalie Portman alluded to the growing baby in her womb. "Now from the two hearts beating in my body, I want to thank our new president," Portman said. "You just started the revolution."