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Participants of a rally regarding women's rights hold placards as they march in Wellington, New Zealand, January 21, 2017 the day after Donald Trump's inauguration as President of the United States. Joshua Gimblett/Handout via REUTERS


By Harry Pearl

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Thousands of protesters in Australia and New Zealand on Saturday joined the first of hundreds of womens' marches organised around the world in a show of disapproval of U.S. President Donald Trump as he began his first day in office.

In Sydney, Australia's biggest city, about 3,000 people - men and women gathered for a rally in Hyde Park before marching on the U.S. consulate downtown, while organisers said 5,000 people rallied in Melbourne.

"Feminism is my Trump card" and "Fight like a girl," were among the placards held aloft by the protesters in Sydney.

"We’re not marching as an anti-Trump movement per se, we’re marching to protest the hate speech, the hateful rhetoric, the misogyny, the bigotry, the xenophobia and we want to present a united voice with women around the globe," organiser Mindy Freiband told Reuters.

Many of the protesters in Sydney and Melbourne wore pink hats, that activists referred to as their "pussyhats".

The emergence of a 2005 tape in which Trump spoke of women in a demeaning way sparked widespread outrage and was one of the low points of his election campaign. In the tape he was heard saying: "Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything."

In New Zealand, there were marches in four cities, involving around 2,000 people, Wellington's march organiser Bette Flagler told Reuters by phone.

Elsewhere in Asia, hundreds of people joined protests

in Tokyo, including many American expatriates.

"Trump presidency gets my blood boiling ... Everything we value could be gone. It's time to speak your mind and concerns and to do our best to salvage the values we cherish in America," said Bill Scholer, an art teacher.

And in Manila on Friday about 200 demonstrators from a Philippine nationalist group rallied for about an hour against Trump outside the U.S. embassy in Manila.

Some held up signs demanding U.S. troops leave the Philippines while others set fire to a paper U.S. flag bearing a picture of Trump's face..

Worldwide some 673 "sister marches" are planned for Saturday, in addition to a protest in Washington D.C., according to the organisers' website which says more than two million marchers are expected.

In Washington D.C., at Trump's inauguration back-clad activists, who were not related to the womens’ marches, threw rocks and bottles at police in Washington as Trump was sworn in as President.

Although protests in the United States are common at inaugurations, in living memory only the inauguration of Richard Nixon in 1968 - as the United States fought an unpopular war in Vietnam - has drawn such a strong reaction worldwide.

In Sydney, many were worried about that Trump’s politics and his attitude towards women and minorities could spread.

"As a mature 56-year-old lesbian I feel for the first time what is global is local," Vicki Skehan, 56, told Reuters.

"We've come so far with inclusiveness and I don't want to see that go away."

(Additional reporting by Tom Westbrook; Writing by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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