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Updated at 2:05 p.m. Jan. 22, 2017
Ken Druck looked out over a sea of San Diegans gathered Saturday for a historic women’s rights rally and march. He delighted in the colorful signs and diverse crowd, and in something else.
He finally had an answer for his daughter Stephanie’s question: What was it like in the Sixties?
“Today describes to her what it looks like when people of a nation rise up and declare what they stand for,” said Druck, a 67-year-old Del Mar author and consultant. “What they believe in. What they’re willing to fight for.”
With his wife, Lisette, at the showcase Washington march, Druck added: “This is the embodiment of (the Sixties) — of those values and that era, alive in 2017.”
A peaceful but boisterous crowd estimated by police at 40,000 people stepped off the San Diego Civic Center complex in support of women’s issues. Men joined them, including one wearing the ubiquitous black “Nasty Woman” T-shirt.
Organizers had expected about 27,000, based on Facebook sign-ups.
The march came a day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, and coincided with 670 other marches and rallies nationwide. State Sen. Toni Atkins told the crowd similar events were being held in 26 nations.
But San Diego’s had its own international flavor — including natives of China and Australia.
“I think this is the greatest thing we have in America,” said Skii Fleeton of Chula Vista, a native Aussie. “Freedom to say how we feel.”
Having married an American, bicycling advocate Fleeton became a U.S. citizen in 2009.
Her message for President Trump: “Please do your very best for the people of America, and think about the people of the world when you’re making those decisions.”
She said his decisions will affect everyone and their future.
“Please think before you act,” she said, “and think before you speak.”
Chen Yi, a visiting English teacher from Hunan Province, China, took part in the march as part of a chaperoned group visiting San Diego.
Chen, 25, said she’d heard that Trump posted something hateful about Asians, and that “Chinese people are taking America, which is not true.”
Her country is actually helping Americans to “get better,” she said.
“China is developing and is going to lead the whole world,” Chen said, “so I think it’s very important to have a very nice and strong and smooth relationship with America.”
Local politicians spoke — including Atkins and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez — but mostly took a back to seat to local organizers and sponsor group leaders.
Marching as part of her Run Women Run group was new San Diego Councilwoman Barbara Bry. (Other council members taking part were also Democrats — David Alvarez, Chris Ward, Myrtle Cole and Georgette Gomez.)
Bry said she would tell Trump to continue funding Planned Parenthood.
“Millions of American women and men depend on Planned Parenthood for medical services and … all women in this country deserve access to quality reproductive health care,” said Bry, 67.
At 16, Ofir Artzi of Poway had similar concerns — “basic rights and all that,” said the Mt. Carmel High School student. “Talk about abortion regulations and the bathroom laws that are going around.”
She said she wanted Trump to listen to the people, “that he doesn’t just do whatever he wants.”
Jeannette Bondurant of La Jolla — who caught a 7:15 a.m trolley with a friend — saw the San Diego crowd as a sign Trump will have to take women’s views into account.
“The reality is this massive movement is grass-roots reaction to [Trump’s] lack of sensitivity to human rights, women’s rights,” said the communications professional from La Jolla, holding a sign that said “Equal rights for all.”
She bemoaned what she called the president’s “shocking ignorance” and hoped a movement taking root will “help shift the culture of the nation so that there’s more involvement by everybody .. and not run by a small group.”
Scott McQueen of Rancho Peñasquitos had wider worries — Trump’s feared Russian connections.
“If Trump is willingly or unwillingly a puppet of Russia — I don’t know,” he said. “But I don’t understand how Republicans can vote for the guy. They are the Military-and-America party. … But they seem to have voted for a guy who loves Putin, loves dictators of all kinds.”
The 46-year-old McQueen said he joined the march to “voice my support for all the ladies in this world. Obviously, this election has been a little … ridiculous,” becoming emotional at the women’s issues that arose.
The local event began with speakers just before 10 a.m. with throngs of people overflowing from the plaza at 202 C St. onto surrounding streets and into the parking structure overlooking the event.
Maria Nieto Senour, a San Diego Community College District board member who works at San Diego State University, told the crowd she was marching because “Donald Trump is a nightmare.”
Trump appeals to people “who don’t believe black lives matter,” she said.
A Filipina-American speaker called on the public to “deny, defy and denounce the tyranny of Donald Trump as president.”
Brief, intermittent drizzles didn’t deter the marchers, who sometimes cheered the beginning of showers on a day with temperatures in the high 50s.
Getting to the area became a challenge as San Diego Trolley service was inundated by demonstrators, causing long waits at trolley stops along the way. Some bus service that normally covers all of the downtown area was halted at City College as the crowds became too large. Two additional Coaster trips were added to accommodate marchers coming from the North County.
March participants carried signs reading “We don’t want your tiny hands anywhere near our underpants,” “Love trumps hate,” “Women’s rights are human rights,” and “Putin’s apprentice,” as well as hundreds of other slogans.
Protesters sang the Star Spangled Banner, took part in a drum circle and heard from speakers before beginning the march shortly after 10:30 a.m. — about 10 minutes after the promised start of the march.
(Scattered chants of “Let’s march!” began at 10:24 a.m.)
After a speaker’s war whoop, people in the packed plaza began heading south on Third Avenue to westbound Broadway before turning north on North Harbor Drive to the County Administration Center.
A large police presence kept order and closed streets in the area. San Diego police were assisted by the California Highway Patrol, San Diego County sheriff’s deputies, San Diego Harbor Police and the San Diego Unified School District Police Department. No one had been arrested as of midday.
By the time the front of the march reached its destination, marchers were just leaving the staging area about a mile away. The final walkers reached the end about 12:30 p.m. — nearly two hours after the start.
“As a diverse, inclusive community of compassionate people, we seek to strengthen and continue our commitment to work for the protection of women’s rights,” the organizers said in a statement. “We stand firm in agreement that women’s rights are human rights.”
About 3,000 people marched Saturday at a separate event in San Marcos.
— City News Service contributed to this report.
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