Lorri L. Jean stood on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall before a crowd of more than 500,000 people on Saturday and led them in a chant: “Be the storm!”
“Until we see the change we need in Washington, it is our duty, it is our obligation, to do much more than simply hunker down and weather the storm,” the Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO said during her rousing speech. “We must be the storm!”
Fueled by the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, the second Women’s March Los Angeles was focused on turning out the vote and bringing attention to the urgency of preparing for the November midterm elections.
Jean was among the leaders and famous faces who who took the stage during a three-hour rally that followed the march which began at Pershing Square and wound up at City Hall. She had a powerful message about why so many had gathered together a year after the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump.
“We are marching for our country and our world,” Jean said. “We are marching for truth, for integrity, for treating our fellow human beings with dignity and respect. We have spent the last year in fury and resisting the leadership of those who do not believe in truth. Who do not believe in compassion, who do not understand that a strong nation requires liberty and justice for all.”
Jean reminded the massive crowd jammed into the streets of downtown Los Angeles of how the LGBT community and others have suffered “grave injustices” but have persevered over formidable odds.
“Perhaps the most important lesson of all is that change does not happen on its own,” she said. “It happens because we make it happen. And if there was ever a time for us to come together and make the change our country needs, it’s now.”
But marching is just the start.
“We must act with strength and purpose and determination between now and November and continuing on through 2020,” Jean said. “We must do whatever we can to take this power to the polls.”
Planned Parenthood Los Angeles President Sue Dunlap also spoke and said: “This community is so incredibly powerful. We are immigrants. We are the vanguard of gender identity. We are the trans community. We are the America of tomorrow and the America we dream about. Nobody in Los Angeles can forget that. We have a special role in this moment in time.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti reminded the crowd that the city started the first big city transgender advisory commission in the history of the United States after Trump announced a ban on transgender people serving in the military.
“Some might not like it but look around you,” Garcetti said, “Los Angeles is the face of the world today and sorry Mr. President, we’re the face of this country tomorrow.”
“We want the world to be better”
Oscar winning songwriter and Grammy winning singer Mellissa Etheridge performed her song Uprising of Love backed by members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles.
“We want the world to be better,” Etheridge said before the song. “It’s all about love. I could say so many things about women but you know I love women – you know that. There’s no doubt there.”
Etheridge also shared her thoughts on why the LGBT community scares so many people: “The man inside each woman and the woman inside each man. That’s what we’re coming to grips with. That duality.”
In addition to Etheridge, there were musical performances by Idina Menzel, Andra Day, Rachel Platten, Daya, Maxwell, Andy Grammer, and Keala Settle.
Speakers at the rally also included four-time Emmy winner Alfre Woodard who introduced jean, Oscar winners Viola Davis, Natalie Portman, Lupita Nyong'o, Marisa Tomei and Mary Steenburgen.
Activist Rob Reiner also spoke along with Black Lives Matter’s Melina Abdullah, ACLU of Southern California Executive Director Hector Villagra, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, Eva Longoria, Constance Wu, Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Banks, Connie Britton, Yvette Nicole Brown, Sophia Bush, Lea DeLaria, Zoey Deutch, Tony Goldwyn, Ted Danson, Sarah Hyland, Paris Jackson, Allison Janney, Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher.
Will & Grace star Megan Mullally got a laugh from the crowd when she pronounced 2016 as “a sh*tshow.”
But she added: “The good news is now we’re here, we’re together and change is upon us.”