First, it was the largest one-day protest in American history. Based on news reports from cities around the country, as many as 4.5 million people took to the streets. From 750,000 people in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles to 250,000 in Chicago, 60,000 in Atlanta, 26,000 in Des Moines, and 271 in Morris, Minnesota (with a population of 3,500 and only two stoplights), protesters took over America on Trump’s second day in office.
Second, the protest completely dominated the news on a day when a newly elected president normally is basking in good press. This is a real defeat for a thin-skinned man who lives off dominating news cycles. The front-page headlines in most newspapers focused on the marches in their local cities and around the country. Many papers had no front-page stories at all about Trump’s first day as president. Those papers that did report on Trump focused on his rambling rant at the CIA. The reporters let readers know that Trump lied about the crowd size at the inauguration—a falsehood repeated later that by his press secretary Sean Spicer and his advisor Kellyanne Conway, who described those lies as “alternative facts.”
In contrast, media coverage of Obama’s second day on the job in 2009 was almost universally positive throughout the country.
In reporting on Saturday’s protests, many news outlets estimated the size of the crowds in their cities without calculating the total number nationwide. Papers that attempted to gauge the total, like The New York Times, came up several million people short. But two professors—Jeremy Pressman from the University of Connecticut and Erica Chenoweth from the University of Denver—conducted a detailed accounting of press and other reports from rallies in over 500 cities and towns across the country. Their conclusion so far: between 3.3 and 4.6 million Americans took to the streets.
Despite the remarkable turnout, the question remains whether it heralds the beginning of a new “resistance” movement that can thwart Trump’s agenda and help Democrats regain power, or whether it was a one-day act of defiance that will be difficult to sustain.