Thousands gathered near Johns Hopkins University for a Women's March held in conjunction with the Women's March on Washington. (Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun video)
Thousands of people spilled onto the street Saturday outside the Johns Hopkins University, singing and waving signs with messages such as "Civility and Respect" to show solidarity with the Women's March in Washington and with hundreds of marches around the country.
Baltimore organizers said they expected to attract fewer than 200 people to an event they billed as a vigil and demonstration — not a protest against President Donald Trump.
But the crowd at North Charles and 33rd streets quickly grew to an estimated 5,000 people, many of them carrying anti-Trump signs, and Baltimore police shut down part of Charles Street from University Parkway to Art Museum Drive.
Some who attended said they'd considered heading to Washington but found buses and trains sold out or wanted to avoid larger crowds. Others said they wanted to create a strong presence standing up for women's rights in their own city.
"We are the ones who make change happen," organizer and retired pastor Donna Martin yelled into a megaphone, fighting to be heard as part of the crowd sang "We Shall Overcome." "We are here to say that we are not going back. We are here to say that we want a kinder, gentler functioning government."
Martin said the purpose was not to protest, though "we want people to realize that women deserve equal rights, equal pay, to be treated as equal citizens, to show women have power and potential. This is a message to the present administration that you better pay attention."
More than 600 "sister marches" with an estimated 3 million participants were planned around the world, including events around Maryland. Between 4,000 and 5,000 people demonstrated in Charles Village, said Major Richard Gibson of the Police Department's Northern District. A police spokesman said he was not aware of any arrests.
In Annapolis, activists marched from Susan Campbell Park through downtown to Lawyers Mall on Saturday morning. In Ocean City, hundreds of people marched north on the boardwalk, according to news reports. And the Frederick News-Post reported that more than 1,000 people walked the sidewalks of that city's historic downtown.
Outside Johns Hopkins, Bobbie Rubright, 62, carried a "Democracy in Action" sign and said she came for her daughters and granddaughters who don't remember the days when different rules applied to girls. As a 10th-grader, Rubright said, she helped organize a walkout because girls were not allowed to wear pants to school. They won a "pants day" for girls once a month.
"I am here to not see us go backwards, but to continue to go forward, and for the lesbian and gay community also, that they have their equal rights," said Rubright, a Glen Burnie resident and teacher's assistant with Anne Arundel County's public schools.
Her friend, Cindy Bonadio, recalled protesting for women's rights in college in the early 1970s.
"Here I am again having to do it," Bonadio said. "This is crazy. We don't need to do this again. It's already in place."
Organizers were joined by Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, former state Sen. Verna Jones-Rodwell and several impromptu speakers who took turns with a megaphone.
Mosby told the crowd that past progress came from movements led by "warrior women."
"The power of women is beyond what anybody else can imagine," Mosby said to cheers and applause, telling demonstrators that past progress came from "warrior women who were unafraid to challenge the status quo in the pursuit of justice."
Terrace Brooks, a 15-year-old sophomore from Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts, came to the demonstration with his mother and then felt compelled to take a turn at the megaphone, leading chants of "Immigrants are welcome here. No hate. No fear."
"We should all be able to come together and have peace," he told the crowd.
Astrud Daniloski, 6, of Hamilton asked for a chance to speak too. Perched on her mother's hip, she shouted through a megaphone: "I believe in equality. I believe in peace. I believe in kindness."
Her mother, Nicole Evanshaw, described the girl as outspoken and said, "She said she wanted to stand next to me and hold a sign for what she believes in."
Annette Welling, a day care provider from Randallstown, said she considered going to Washington on Saturday.
"But then they had the sister marches, and I live here," said Welling, who held up a heart-shaped sign that said "I Love You Because I Choose 2."
Eleanor Holland, a retired Episcopal priest and an organizer of the march, said she, Martin and two other women started planning what they envisioned as a small vigil for Baltimore about a month ago, thinking they might attract 20 to 40 people who would stand on the sidewalk.
"It is a rally for all those people who are fighting and for all those people who feel their rights are in question," Holland said, "and for all those people who need a voice."