WASHINGTON - Hundreds of Canadian women, many of them wearing pink knit hats or carrying signs emblazoned with the maple leaf and the slogan "sisters of the north", filled the sidewalks of Washington, D.C. Saturday morning as they made their way to a massive rally for women's rights.
Residents came out onto their porches to shout words of encouragement and snap photos of the crowd. Others handed out free coffee.
"We're from Canada!" one woman shouted to a man who greeted the marchers from the front door of his home. "Really?" he replied incredulously. "See you there!"
Roughly 600 Canadian travellers, most of them women, made the overnight trek on chartered buses from Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Windsor, Ont. to participate in what's being called the Women's March on Washington. Others made their way to the U.S. capital by car or plane.
The rally is billed as supporting women's rights rather than protesting Donald Trump, the newly crowned U.S. president, who was officially sworn in Friday.
City officials in Washington said Saturday morning that the turnout estimate for the march on the National Mall stood at 500,000 people — more than double the initial predictions. There were early signs across the city that the crowds could top those that gathered on Friday to watch Trump's inauguration.
Many Canadian participants said they were spurred to act by Trump's controversial comments during the election campaign.
Sadaf Jamal, 38, says many people have felt marginalized as a result of the campaign and she wants to help them "stand proud."
"I'm a Muslim woman and that is why I'm marching, because I want to empower all Muslim women," she said on a bus from Toronto.
"Why should we be marginalized? … There's nothing wrong with us. We are talented women, we are courageous women, we can be whatever we want to be."
A dual Canadian-American citizen, Elizabeth Wolfenden said she cried for hours after Trump was elected.
The 18-year-old, who has many relatives still in the U.S., said she initially planned to march with her mother but decided to make the trip alone after her mother was sidelined by an injury.
The rally, she said, is her first trip alone.
"I just really want to take part in history," she said.
"I think this will be historical and I want to say that I was there, that I did something, that I tried to make a difference and I let my voice be heard, that I joined a movement that I think is really important."
Marches were also planned Saturday in virtually every major Canadian city as well as many smaller centres.