Thousands of protestors overflow Miami Bayfront Park at Women's Rally of South Florida
They came by the thousands to downtown Miami — as they did in Boston and Chicago and Los Angeles and hundreds of cities around the world — to protest in support of women’s and civil rights in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington.
They carried homemade signs and placards directly addressing the just-inaugurated President Donald Trump: “Make America THINK Again.” “Bridges Over Walls.” “Rise & Unify.”
And the more than 10,000 people of all ages and races who showed up at the Bayfront Park Amphitheater at 1 p.m. Saturday for the Women’s Rally of South Florida shared their stories and listened to speakers and cheered and drew strength and support from each other.
“It’s all about unity and love and solidarity and strength,” said Alessandra Mondolfi, a sculptor whose Facebook post of artwork she created featuring a collage of pink female signs with a clenched fist at the center went viral and appeared at several rallies around the country. “It’s inclusive.”
The Miami rally focused on an array of causes built around human rights — women’s rights, immigrant rights, LGBT rights and environmental rights. Also important: keeping access to healthcare after Republicans in Congress have vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which has provided medical insurance to 20 million Americans.
Sherri Davis, 60, who manages appointments and payments at an auto repair shop near Midtown Miami, worried about losing the health insurance she’d gained under the law signed by former President Barack Obama.
“I’d literally be dead if it weren’t for Obamacare,” said Davis, who was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in the late 2000s. “I’m terrified I’m gonna lose my insurance and that the replacement will not be financially viable. Nothing they’ve proposed works. Everything they’ve proposed hurts me.”
Juliet Suman, 52, referred to herself as a disillusioned immigrant. She moved to the U.S. from Canada and became a citizen five years ago so she could vote. The election of Donald Trump, she said, left her horrified and betrayed by the country she idolized.
“I will never get it, and I don’t understand how it happened,” she said.
She came out to march Saturday decked out in cat face paint and clutching a sign that read: “I ‘accept’ the [cat face] grabber as my POTUS, but I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever understand why it’s ‘OK.’ ”
Suman, who said “protesting is cathartic,” handed out her other homemade signs to her crowd of friends and brought them to Bayfront Park, where they were among the last few people allowed into the overflowing rally.
Miami-Dade fire marshals closed off the entrance to the amphitheater — which accommodates nearly 2,700 people on benches and another 7,400 on an open lawn — at 2:30 p.m. after it had filled to capacity.
A line of several hundred people shut out of the event stretched south on Biscayne Boulevard, reaching the InterContinental Hotel. After learning they wouldn’t be able to attend the rally, around 200 of them set out on an impromptu march, with police vehicles scrambling ahead to clear their path.
The crowd walked west on Northeast Second Street and worked its way onto northbound I-95, chanting, “This is what democracy looks like!” and “Whose streets? Our streets!” before exiting the highway and dispersing peacefully. No arrests were reported.
Inside the amphitheater, food trucks and vendors selling cold drinks and Italian ice served the crowd. A speaker led the crowd in a citizen’s oath, with hundreds responding. “We the people promised to stand up for each other, to read this, and to build a world that is just for all.”
Tracy Wilson Mourning, the philanthropist and wife of former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning — headed up the program, which included speakers from various nonprofit organizations and a live feed to watch the D.C. march.
Danielle Rollins, 29, was at the Miami march volunteering for Planned Parenthood in what she said was her first time at a political rally.
“I think it’s really important in this climate that people support reproductive rights,” said Rollins, who lives in Little Havana.
She said she was also worried about police brutality and discrimination against the LGBTQ community. “Everybody has to have a first time for something like this and this happens to be mine. I’ve cared about this for a long time but I never came out before. I think a lot of people feel that way now.”
Lisa Robert, 44, of Coral Springs said Trump has too many conflicts of interest for her to support him. She said she believes he entered the election to boost his brand and was shocked to win.
“He was supposed to drain the swamp,” Robert said, referring to a popular slogan from the campaign trail. “He’s not draining the swamp, he’s filling it with vicious alligators.”
Ganavya Doraiswamy, 25, a singer and PhD music student, came with her friend Maria Peña, 28. Both are from Broward, though Peña’s parents are from Venezuela and Doraiswamy’s from southern India.
Doraiswamy said she was inspired to attend the rally by a combination of fear and hope.
“I wanted to say despair, but I’m not sure that’s what it is,” she said. “I’m also hoping to feel a sense of community.”
Doraiswamy said several of her Muslim friends had been attacked since the election, including a woman who is a researcher at Harvard who was confronted by a group of men while riding the Metro who took her laptop, claiming it was a bomb, and demanded to see her ID.
“She had to show them her identification and tell them she worked at Harvard,” Doraiswamy said. “No one helped. I don’t remember this happening before the election.”
In response, Doraiswamy had stopped wearing the headscarf that is traditional for her Hindu religion. But on Saturday she had put it back on.
“I cried the day of the election and sometimes I still want to cry,” she said. “But now I just want to move forward. I want everyone to be heard. I will never be as passive in politics as I have been before.”
Caitlin Randle contributed to this report.