SCHENECTADY -- On most Saturday mornings, Ang Morris can be found at Vent Fitness doing her boxing training.
But she made plans for a different kind of boxing match for the Saturday of Martin Luther King weekend, organizing the first Women's March in Schenectady, which coincided with major women's marches throughout the U.S. and other local marches, like then one held in Congress Park in Saratoga Springs.
"It's about fighting against the 'isms, and bigotry and hatred that we deal with on a regular basis on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., so in order to train to fight injustice, we're putting on our boxing gloves as women and saying enough is enough, bring it on, vote 2020 for women's rights," Morris said.
About 300 people attended the inaugural Women's March in Schenectady, which began at City Hall and then concluded at the Schenectady YWCA. Roughly the same number of people attended the Women's March in Saratoga Springs.
Women have been marching in similar events usually held on Jan. 17 since 2017, the first year of President Donald Trump's term as president, when more than 470,000 women and their allies marched on Washington, D.C., joining with an estimated 7 million marchers worldwide.
According to The Washington Post, roughly 250 marches and rallies followed in 2018 with up to 735,978 marchers participating at more than 300 locations in 2019.
Three years later, the Women’s March movement has been battered by controversies and fractured by infighting. Crowd predictions for Saturday’s marches do not approach the numbers of past protests: Some 25,000 people had committed to attend the Washington demonstration, according to Rachel O’Leary Carmona, the chief operating officer of Women’s March Inc., the nonprofit group that sponsors the protests and supports work for its causes. An additional 22,000 had signed up for 252 demonstrations planned in other cities.
But the group’s leaders say a head count is a poor way to measure the movement’s strength.
The march was at the center of public outcry this week for what the federal government — not organizers — had done. The Washington Post reported that the National Archives in Washington had blurred signs that were critical of Trump in a photograph of the 2017 march. The move prompted complaints from marchers, historians and other archivists.
Some of the signs carried Saturday in Schenectady said things like: "Bans off my body," "Together we fight for all," "Put the women in charge" and "Her body her choice."
Morris explained why she thinks the annual marches are needed more now than in the recent past.
"It wasn't needed before because past administrations were in support of women's rights, and we didn't have a tumultuous situation with a presidency that is attacking women and other groups and cultures," Morris said.
President Trump was mentioned a few times during speeches given at the rally on the steps of City Hall, and made appearances in some protest signs, but was mostly relegated to the background of the event, although people in attendance Saturday cited his administration as the spark for the need for women to protest.
Participants in the Women's March Saturday protested Trump's policies of child separation from undocumented immigrant parents, ignoring climate change science, appointing anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court and federal judiciary, and the 22 sexual misconduct allegations made against him by women. They also protested the recording of his conversation with "Access Hollywood" host Billy Bush in which he claimed he could grab women by their genitalia and get away with it because of his fame and wealth.
Speakers at the City Hall rally included Morris, Hemavattie Ramtahal of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, Sarah Rogerson of the Albany Law School & The Legal Project, and Sally Courtright of the Climate Reality Project.
Courtright said climate change is already disrupting people's lives all over the world and it will get worse if nothing is done. She said the U.S. could supply all of its electricity needs with wind and solar, and must promote them. She praised U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, for writing federal legislation that would fight climate change, but it requires approval in the U.S. Senate and a president willing to sign it. That's not likely to happen any time soon.
Tonko was in attendance and received applause from the crowd.
"[Last year] was Australia's warmest and driest year on record, and Australians are suffering horribly from the insidious bush fires there," Courtright said. "As the disasters in the world begin to pile up, some areas of the world will become unlivable. Where will climate migrants go?"
Hanna Jane Guendel, a writing and environmental science major at Bard College who grew up in Clifton Park, attended the rally and march Saturday. She also listened to the speakers at the Schenectady YWCA: Kim Siciliano of the YWCA and Sara Baron of the First United Methodist Church of Schenectady.
She said she's been involved in previous Women's Marches and feels it's important to attend them to support all of the women and other people who don't have the opportunity to go to them. She also came to the event with her mother.
"I feel like representation is important, being here is important, to add to the number of people," she said.
Material from the Washington Post was included in this article.