In January 2017, approximately 175,000 people crammed into Boston Common and flooded the streets around the Public Garden.
In signs, speeches, and chants, they gave a historic voice to the fight for women’s rights while advocating for climate change solutions, demanding universal health care, rejecting racism and hate, and rallying for an array of causes the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Now, two years later, organizers of the 2019 Boston Women’s March say they’ll gather again this Saturday, with a focus on re-energizing, re-committing, and doubling down on following through with their work toward change, from civil rights to religious freedom to racial and economic justice.
“We are specifically looking to uplift and to center and to focus on ways in which gender discrimination … intersects with other forms of institutional oppression — and that is a long list,” Karen Cosmas, executive director of March Forward Massachusetts, the nonprofit organizing the demonstration, told Boston.com. “Women deal in very specific ways with racism, with anti-Semitism, with Islamophobia, with homophobia, with transphobia, with ableism.”
“What we’re trying to do is to make sure that this movement is big enough and broad enough and inclusive enough so that some of these voices who are typically overlooked or pushed to the side in progressive organizing are brought to the front,” she added later.
Marchers are slated to step off from the Common around 12:30 p.m. after a morning of speeches and congregation within the park.
Here’s what to know heading into Saturday:
Controversy in New York, nationally
Unlike in Boston, New Yorkers on Saturday will see two separate marches inching down the streets of Manhattan, 50-plus blocks apart from one another.
The divide stems from accusations of anti-Semitism within Women’s March Inc., the organizers behind the 2017 rally in Washington, D.C. In one specific case, two leaders at a private meeting in late 2016 allegedly stated that Jews contributed to racism and racial oppression amid a conversation with fellow organizers, The New York Times reports.
The women have denied those claims.
Cosmas and a diverse steering committee leading March Forward Massachusetts’s event on Saturday have said the local, grassroots effort commandeering the Common this weekend is a completely separate entity.
“This is an independent, locally-led, and locally-focused effort here in Greater Boston, and … our values are pretty clear and we stand in steadfast opposition to racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, transphobia, hate speech, and bigotry of any kind,” she said.
Cosmas acknowledged she often hears people calling for March Forward Massachusetts to demand the leaders of Women’s March Inc. step down, but said her organization has no relationship with them.
“It’s not really appropriate for me to (make that demand),” she said. “I’m deeply saddened by what this movement has gone through at a time when we would be otherwise celebrating the accomplishments of the past two years. Women have accomplished so much — record number of candidates, record numbers of diverse women elected at every level of our government — and instead we’re talking about associations and statements by four women that I’m not in relationship with and have no affiliation with.”
Where and when, exactly?
Boston organizers have mapped out events from 10 a.m. through 2 p.m. on the Common Saturday, although the official program, where attendees will hear from a range of speakers, does not start until 11 a.m.
The march itself is slated to step off shortly afterward at 12:30 p.m. A map of the route shows demonstrators will move out of the Common and head north on Charles Street, then west on Beacon Street, with a left turn to head south on Arlington Street.
From there, marchers will head west on Commonwealth Avenue, before turning around at Clarendon Street and heading back toward the park via Commonwealth Avenue and Arlington, Boylston, and Charles streets.
Marchers are scheduled to complete their loop by 2 p.m., although participants are welcome to stick around on the Common until 3 for “community building,” the March Forward Massachusetts website says.
If you’re heading out, you may want to bundle up.
As of Thursday, Saturday’s forecasted high hung at a chilly 26 degrees.
“Our major wildcard is the weather, and, knock on wood, it looks like we’re going to be in the window of these two big weather systems,” Cosmas said.
Who will be there?
Saturday’s crowd size might not hit the historic heights of two years ago, but Cosmas said organizers are still expecting upward of 20,000 people.
To help with planning purposes, organizers are encouraging participants to register online beforehand, although registration is not a requirement to attend, according to Cosmas.
While the finalized list of scheduled speakers was not yet ready to go public Thursday morning, attendees can count on at least one news-making figure to be in attendance: Boston’s own congresswoman, Ayanna Pressley, Cosmas confirmed.
Pressley is the honorary chairwoman of this year’s march.
Two years after the initial march “there is cause for hope — my heart is lightened by the brave women who have raised their voices and accepted the mantle of activist and advocate, and as I take my seat in the 116th Congress, I do so alongside the most diverse and representative freshman class in Congressional history,” Pressley said in a statement. “Now, we must build on that progress. I look forward to standing in community on Saturday — on the same weekend we celebrate the legacy of Dr. (Martin Luther) King — and recommitting to continue our advocacy and our activism, to reject hatred and affirm the humanity of every person.”