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Jose Luis Magana, Associated Press
Women with bright pink hats and signs begin to gather early and are set to make their voices heard on the first full day of Donald Trump's presidency, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 in Washington. Organizers of the Women's March on Washington expect more than 200,000 people to attend the gathering. Other protests are expected in other U.S. cities.

WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands of pink knit hats rode through the streets of the nation's capital Saturday on the heads of women who demanded a voice in Donald Trump's America.

Over 1,000 women from Utah joined an estimated half a million women who packed the streets so tightly around the National Mall that at times, the Women's March on Washington ground to a halt.

No matter.

The throngs of women and the men who supported them simply cheered or chanted, bobbing their signs up and down.

"We want to say we won't stand for anti-women rhetoric or anti-women legislation," said Kathryn Jones-Porter, 30, a photographer from Salt Lake City who is a leader of the new group Utah Women Unite. "We're here, we're listening, we're not going to back down."

The crowded atmosphere felt good to many of the women. One sign cited Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman" anthem for the early '70s women's movement: "I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore."

The Utah contingent believed the march's positive energy and the concerns women have with Trump have combined to launch a lasting movement with pink hats as a new symbol of unity.

In fact, the Utahns are on their way home to go right back to work. Utah Women Unite has organized a march to the Utah Capitol on Monday that is designed to educate women how to have a voice in Utah's Legislature.

Cheerful throngs

As the women emerged from teeming subway trains — Washington officials said more people rode the Metro on Saturday than did on inauguration day Friday — and poured from 1,500 buses that arrived from Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois to park at RFK Stadium, they regularly broke into spontaneous cheers.

The cheers broke out everywhere marchers went. On the subway. Coming up out of the subway. On street corners on the walk to the rally. Some weren't so spontaneous. Women working for the subway and D.C. police started cheers, waving their arms over their heads to spur the marchers to yell and yell louder.

"It was unbelievable, wild," said Kate Kelly, a human rights attorney from Salt Lake City. "That exceeded my most far-fetched expectations. It was so crowded it would have been a bad place to be a claustrophobic person. In some places, if I had tripped, I wouldn't have fallen."

For the women with Utah Women United, the morning began before 9 a.m. They organized on the steps of the National Air and Space Museum. They handed out signs, draped gold boxing gloves on streets around their necks to signify that they were ready to fight for women's rights, and headed to the opening rally on Independence Avenue, just south of the mall.

Crowds stretched up and down the street as far as the eye could see.

Through a program of rousing speeches, the morning’s high enthusiasm gave way to frustration as the rally stretched into its fourth hour. Once the crowd left the reached the open spaces of the National Mall, the Utahns regained their earlier excitement.

Pink symbols

Outside the Trump International Hotel, police and private security stood behind barricades as protesters passed, booing and offering up volleys of anti-Trump chants.

The march was peaceful, however. No marchers were arrested, police said, and the women said they felt secure.

"I was very impressed by the civility," said Victoria Baird of Provo, a former BYU professor and the co-founder and president of the Utah chapter of U.N. Women.

On the other hand, many women clearly were disturbed by Trump's 2005 statement that he had sexually assaulted woman by grabbing their crotches. For some, the pink hats were a symbol of girlhood. For others, the pink hats with cat ears were a direct response to a vulgar word Trump used with an Access Hollywood TV host.

Numerous women responded Saturday by using the same lewd word, as if to seize it from him. Many of the signs made it clear the marchers saw the vulgarities on their own signs as a symbol of taking back control of their bodies.

There also was clear concern Saturday about the direction of the Trump administration — "We're afraid women might be losing our gender rights," Baird said — and anger over his treatment of women.

Many signs were a variation on themes like "Girls just want to have fun-damental human rights" or "Women's rights, human rights."

Losses, gains

Kelly, the former leader of Ordain Women who is studying to take the Utah bar exam next month, said the women had genuine reasons to march, as millions did Saturday in hundreds of marches around the world. She said women's rights in Utah already are under assault in President Trump's administration. He reportedly plans to slash 25 grant programs under the Violence Against Women Act, including funding for the Utah Prosecution Council that underwrites the work of Kelly's mother, Donna Kelly, a sexual assault and domestic violence resource prosecutor.

"It's an immediate attack on women," Kelly said. "He's had an immediate impact on the safety of women in Utah."

Those setbacks are galvanizing.

"At least for the Utah group," Kelly said, "that was the first march they've ever been to, the first protest they've been involved in, and the first time they've stood up for what they believe. It was the first time they've ever been engaged and involved, and that's a positive sign for me."

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Jones-Porter said Utah Women United will teach women how to approach legislators on Monday. The budding activists will gather at 2 p.m. at City Creek Park to march to the Utah State Capitol for a 3 p.m. rally in the rotunda. That will be followed by tours to familiarize the women with the building and ways they can be heard.

One issue Jones-Porter said the group will address is the wage gap between men and women. Utah's pay gap is the second-worst in the nation, she said, behind only Louisiana.

As the march dissipated on Saturday, escalators and turnstyles broke down on the subway system as long lines of people waited to cram into trains. Downtown traffic snarled as tens of thousands of people left the downtown area.

Still, many stayed on the mall into the evening.