Ocasio-Cortez at NYC Women’s March: “Translate power into policy”
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, center, with white scarf, with members of the Women's Resistance Revival Chorus prior to speaking at the Women's March NYC rally at Foley Square in Lower Manhattan, Saturday, Jan. 19, in New York. | Kathy Willens / AP

NEW YORK—For the third consecutive year, Manhattan’s Upper West Side was the staging ground of the resistance. Though beset with recent division and a competing march downtown, this mass gathering of progressive women and like-minded male supporters spoke out thousands strong.

At 10 a.m., the West 72nd Street entrance to Central Park was already vibrating as throngs emerged, many in pink “pussy hats” and with placards held aloft. As the activists milled about, members of Batala’ NY, a large, all-female drum ensemble, were warming up, their thunderous accents tearing through the expanse. Speakers brandished bullhorns, shredding conservative talking points with humor and rhythm as a legion of voter registration volunteers armed with clipboards stood at each corner. Members of Planned Parenthood, the NYS Public Employees Federation, film and theatre union IATSE and many other women’s and progressive organizations were out in numbers.

The celebrity of the event was Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose presence drew cheers quaking the press box. She told the mass crowd that she’d been present each year of the Women’s Marches, the first in Washington D.C.: “When I looked over at the Capitol Building, a shiver went down my spine. I didn’t yet know that I was going to run for office, but a few months later, my campaign began.”

Ocasio-Cortez continued: “We just overturned the House, now we must do it with all of the houses, including the White House.” Before encouraging the crowd to “march like Fannie Lou Hamer”, the new member of Congress added, “This year we must translate power into policy!”

The storm casing the East Coast must have been sympathetic to the cause as it’s promised snowfall, hard rain, and pelting hail were replaced by a still, cold winter day. The atmosphere made for a special urgency extending throughout the terrain.

Marchers made their way toward the 61st Street rally podium, bearing signs reading “Follow the Females,” “The Future is Intersectional,” “These Boots are Made for Governing,” and “My Body, My Choice,” as well as the singular “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance.”

The march had kicked off with an open-air rally hosted by comic Lauren Ash. “Thank you for making history with us”, Ash told the enthusiastic crowd. “We’ve made major cracks in the glass ceiling, but men and women are still not seen as equal under the Constitution,” she said, referring to the fight for an Equal Rights Amendment.

Following a Shinnecock Nation blessing by Native activists, Women’s March Alliance founder Catherine Siemionko told the ralliers, “We’ve gone from suffrage to Senate—and that’s just the beginning!” Also on stage was transgender advocate Hannah Simpson, her presence a demonstration of the unifying mission at hand. “My path to womanhood was different,” she stated, “but we stand together.” She added, “We speak for the women who suffer in silence or have been silenced.”

The march ignited a path to Columbus Circle, with the Trump Hotel a favorite target along the way. Chants of “Shame!” were accompanied by shows of vividly anti-Trump placards, costumes, and flashes of the middle finger toward the building’s golden façade.


John Pietaro
John Pietaro

Poet, Arts Journalist, Creative Writer, Spoken Word Artist. Works at Local 802 AFM. DJ, co-host Beneath the Underground at Sheena's Jungle Room on WFMU. Staff Writer, Columnist, Critic at The NYC Jazz Record.