US civil rights activists have vowed to defend hard-fought gains in voting rights and criminal justice as they kick off a week of protests ahead of Donald Trump's inauguration.
About 2000 mostly black protesters ignored steady rain to march and rally near Washington's Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, as speakers urged them to fight for minority rights and President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, which Mr Trump has vowed to dismantle.
Rally organiser and veteran civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton said Democrats in Congress needed to be sent a simple message: "Get some backbone."
"We march in the driving rain because we want the nation to understand that what has been fought for and gained, that you're going to need more than one election to turn it around," he said.
The rally drew fewer people than organisers had initially expected, but Mr Sharpton said afterwards he was satisfied with the turnout, given the rain and temperatures hovering just above freezing.
Mr Trump's choice of Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican, to become attorney general has raised concern among many on the left that Trump could weaken voting rights for minorities and roll back criminal justice reforms.
"We will march until hell freezes over, and when it does, we will march on the ice," said Cornell William Brooks, president and chief executive of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The rally also included the Hispanic group La Raza, politicians, relatives of African-Americans slain by police, the National Urban League, Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights.
The rally came hours after Mr Trump blasted US Representative John Lewis after the Georgia Democrat and civil rights campaigner said Russia's alleged hacking aimed at helping Trump put his legitimacy into question.
Mr Trump replied on Twitter that Lewis should focus instead on his Atlanta district. "All talk, talk, talk - no action or results! Sad!," he wrote.
About 30 groups, almost all of them anti-Trump, have received permits to protest before, during and after the inauguration. Thousands of demonstrators have vowed to shut down the inauguration.
Washington police and the US Secret Service plan to have some 3000 extra officers and an additional 5000 National Guard troops on hand for security.
By far the biggest event will be the Women's March on Washington the day after the inauguration, which organisers say could draw 200,000 people.
Performer pulls out of inauguration
Meanwhile, Broadway star Jennifer Holliday is pulling out of the concert celebrating Mr Trump's inauguration after she was criticised as betraying her gay and lesbian fans.
In an open letter, the Tony-award winning singer said she apologised for her lapse of judgment.
Holliday wrote she had originally agreed to perform as a "bi-partisan songbird" who had sung for four presidents, both Republican and Democrat, dating back to Ronald Reagan.