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World With symbolic strike, women seek to deepen protest movement

Women hold posters as they take part in a march for women's rights and freedom on Jan. 21, 2017, in Pristina, Kosovo.

ARMEND NIMANI/AFP/Getty Images

On Wednesday morning, Yamileth Vasco wrapped up her newborn son, boarded the subway near her home in Queens and went to a demonstration for the first time in her life.

Two blocks from Trump Tower in Manhattan, she joined more than a thousand people to mark a symbolic nationwide strike on International Women's Day in a show of opposition to the policies of the new administration.

U.S. President Donald Trump's rhetoric about immigrants was "a slap in the face" to families such as hers, said Ms. Vasco, 23, who is of Colombian heritage. "Women need to take a stand when so many people are being oppressed on a daily basis."

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Denise Balkissoon: On this Women's Day, women should strike – for someone else

Across the United States on Wednesday, some women heeded a call to stay home from work, refrain from shopping and wear red. The strike, called A Day Without A Woman, marked the next stage of a protest movement initiated the day after Mr. Trump's inauguration.

On Jan. 21, the United States witnessed what scholars believe were the largest mass demonstrations in the nation's history, with more than three million people taking part in women's marches across the country, including in Washington.

The organizers of the Washington march conceived Wednesday's event, which was much smaller than its predecessor. But it also had different aims – to show the economic clout of women, introduce participants to new forms of protest and build on recent boycotts opposing the Trump administration.

In some pockets of the country, businesses gave female employees the day off or operated in a reduced capacity. Three school districts – in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland – closed for the day after hundreds of teachers asked for the day off. In Providence, R.I., the city courthouse shut down due to a shortage of staff connected to the strike.

Wednesday's event, like the women's marches, was mocked by conservative commentators as a pointless disruption. The strike is a movement of "aggrieved sore losers," Erick Erickson wrote in a column for Fox News last month. Other commentators noted that many working women can't afford to skip a day on the job.

In New York, women wearing red gathered at midday for a rally near the southeast corner of Central Park. Participants repeatedly described how Mr. Trump's election had galvanized them to action, with the January women's marches serving as a key turning point. "I know that I felt hope and support seeing so many women there – and that made me hopeful and want to fight," said Huei Sears, 21, of the Washington march.

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Prior to January, Manuela Mozo, 43, had never attended a protest in her life. But Wednesday's event in New York was her third in recent weeks – and she is planning to attend a fourth next month. She was joined by her mother and her eight-year-old daughter, Saia Hilbertz, whom she allowed to miss school in order to be at the event.

"My hope is that we disrupt things enough, in a positive way, that it destabilizes the complacency" of Americans who have come to view Mr. Trump as normal, said Ms. Mozo. Next to her, Saia carried a homemade sign that read: "We will never give in."

The major challenge for the organizers of the women's marches is to turn the energy in the streets into a source of political pressure. In recent weeks, they have rolled out a series of steps to coincide with Mr. Trump's first 100 days in office, including urging people to send postcards to members of Congress and host small gatherings at their homes.

On Wednesday, Linda Sarsour, one of the organizers of the women's march, told the rally that she wasn't worried about the durability of the protests thanks to Mr. Trump's own actions. "The President is doing a damn good job by his own damn self every single day" to arouse opposition, she said.

After a series of speeches, the organizers announced that they would march to the nearby Trump International Hotel and Tower to surround it. A small group of protesters sat down in the middle of Columbus Circle in front of the hotel, blocking traffic at a major intersection in an act of civil disobedience. Police officers moved in to arrest 13 people, including Ms. Sarsour.

The police loaded them into a van and drove away. But hundreds of people remained, undeterred, standing across from Mr. Trump's hotel, chanting and waving signs.

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