Northern Ireland news

Belfast protesters join in global march of defiance against Donald Trump

A rally was held in Belfast on Saturday as part of a wave of international action timed to take place on the first day of Donald Trump's US presidency

MORE than a million people joined rallies around the world to protest against Donald Trump on his first day as US president.

In a global exclamation of defiance and solidarity, they sent him an emphatic message that they will not let his agenda go unchallenged.

On Saturday several hundred people gathered in front of Belfast City Hall in solidarity with the US protesters.

Marchers in Washington DC chanted: "Welcome to your first day, we will not go away!"

Many of the women came wearing pink, pointy-eared 'pussyhats' to mock the new president.

Plenty of men joined in, too, contributing to surprising numbers everywhere from Belfast, Dublin, Galway, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles to Mexico City, Paris, Berlin, London, Prague and Sydney.

The Washington rally alone attracted over 500,000 people according to city officials - apparently more than Mr Trump's inauguration drew on Friday.

It was easily one of the biggest demonstrations in the city's history, and as night fell, not a single arrest was reported.

The international outpouring served to underscore the degree to which Mr Trump has unsettled people in both hemispheres.

"We march today for the moral core of this nation, against which our new president is waging a war," actress America Ferrera told the Washington crowd.

"Our dignity, our character, our rights have all been under attack, and a platform of hate and division assumed power yesterday. But the president is not America. We are America, and we are here to stay."

Turnout in the capital was so heavy that the designated march route alongside the National Mall was impassable.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer had no comment on the march except to note there were no firm numbers for turnout because the National Park Service no longer provides crowd estimates.

Around the world, women brandished signs with slogans such as 'Women won't back down' and 'Less fear more love'.

They decried Mr Trump's stand on such issues as abortion, health care, diversity and climate change, and they branded him a sexist, a bully, a bigot and more.

"We want a leader, not a creepy tweeter," some marchers chanted in Washington.

In Chicago, organisers cancelled the march portion of their event for safety reasons because of an overflow crowd that reached an estimated 250,000.

People made their way through the streets on their own anyway.

In New York, well over 100,000 marched past Mr Trump's home at glittering Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. More than 100,000 also gathered on Boston Common, and a similar number demonstrated in Los Angeles.

In Miami estate agent Regina Vasquez (51) brought a sign saying "Repeal and Replace Trump".

She said: "I believe that strength is in the numbers, and that we should all come out and not make Trump the new normal."

All told, more than 600 'sister marches' were planned worldwide. Crowd estimates from police and organisers around the globe added up to well over a million.

The Women's March on Washington appeared to accomplish the historic feat of drawing more people to protest against the inauguration than the ceremony itself attracted.

It far surpassed the 60,000 people who protested against the Vietnam War at Richard Nixon's second inauguration in 1973. Before Saturday, that was thought to be the largest such demonstration in inaugural history.

Christopher Geldart, Washington's homeland security director, said the crowd exceeded the 500,000 that organisers told city officials to expect.

The Washington rally was a peaceful counterpoint to the window-smashing unrest that unfolded on Friday when self-described anarchists tried to disrupt the inauguration.

Police used pepper spray and stun grenades against the demonstrators. More than 200 people were arrested.

Hillary Clinton, who lost to Mr Trump, thanked Saturday's participants for "standing, speaking and marching for our values".

The hand-knit 'pussyhats' worn by many women served as a message of female empowerment, inspired by Mr Trump's crude boast about grabbing women's genitals.

They "ain't for grabbing," actress Ashley Judd told the Washington crowd.

The marches were a magnet for A-list celebrities, unlike Mr Trump's inauguration, which had lacked top performers.

Alicia Keys sang Girl On Fire for the Washington crowd, Madonna gave a passionate address to the gathering and Cher said Mr Trump's rise has people "more frightened maybe than they've ever been".

Julia Roberts, Scarlett Johansson, Katy Perry, Emma Watson, Amy Schumer, Jake Gyllenhaal and feminist leader Gloria Steinem also among the A-list celebrities in attendance.

In Park City, Utah, it was Charlize Theron leading demonstrators in a chant of "Love, not hate, makes America great".

Actresses Helen Mirren and Cynthia Nixon and Whoopi Goldberg joined the crowd of protesters in New York.

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