My Experience At The Women’s March 2017 In Washington DC
When the Women’s March was first announced in December of last year, there was no doubt in my mind that I had to be there. I even scheduled a meeting/lunch with an ex-client in Bethesda, MD for the day after to put a place holder in my calendar. My activist leanings from the Viet Nam era were in full blown “Be There” mode, and I booked my tickets. Of course, the fact that both of my daughters live in DC made it an absolute no brainer.
My train from NYC to DC was more crowded than normal and filled with women of all ages (and many of my generation) with a definite air of expectation. People looked at each other with the recognition that we shared a mind set and a purpose. The young woman sitting next to me (in the Quiet Car…so we didn’t talk) was texting in Chinese…so there were double reasons not to speak with her. Amazingly enough, who scurried into my DC Metro subway car as the doors were about to close—but my seat mate! And then we did chat. Of course, she was NOT there for the Inauguration, she explained. She hadn’t been in this country long and here she was, heading for the March and meeting up with a friend who was flying in from SEATTLE FOR THE MARCH! It was at that point that I realized that this March was going to be “YUGE”.
I stayed away from downtown the day of the Inauguration, for obvious reasons, and had made plans to meet a friend for lunch. Having attended both Obama Inaugurations, I did want to check out the crowd size for this President and snapped a picture of the TV screen at 11 am. Didn’t look anything like my picture from 2008, that’s for sure.
We got up early Sunday morning to go from one daughter’s house to the other and then to go to a breakfast hosted by one of my daughter’s friends. As we drove down Wisconsin Avenue, every bus stop was packed with people—many in their pussy hats—setting off for the March. To be perfectly honest, it appeared that there wasn’t a DC resident who wasn’t on their way to the March. The only prior time that I had felt this much enthusiasm and sort of universal support was walking down to the Mall for Obama’s first Inauguration in 2008. Even my 5-year old granddaughter understood what was going on and was eager to set off for the March with a hand-written sign expressing her views.
Greeted by a sign reading Nasty Women Can Do Anything hanging from the balcony at my daughter’s friends’ apartment, we joined about 25 thirty-Somethings and their mothers, aunts, fathers and uncles who all chatted amiably with excitement. Breakfast, snacks to go, lots of coffee and bottles of water to go…combined with a whole lot of camaraderie were shared by all before we set out for the Metro…only to realize that there was absolutely NO HOPE of getting on a train. We did snag an UBER (this was before we knew about the CEO’s then-position on the Presidential Advisory Committee) and got as close as we could to where the speeches were taking place. Until we realized that there was about a mile and thousands of people in front of us…I mean we were probably a mile from the nearest Jumbotron. Clearly, no one had expected the really gargantuan sized crowds that had clearly been assembling for many hours before our 9:30 arrival. The streets were absolutely packed.
After a few moments of crowd-induced panic for the claustrophobic among us, we joined the thousands of others who exited Independence Avenue for the Mall, where many many many thousands of people were milling around. And here we realized and felt the magnitude of the crowd, the sentiment and the tremendous sense of community that abounded. The commonality of purpose was the same as we shared at the Obama Inauguration…Sadly …this time we shared a view of shame and horror and fear at the path of the current President, where before we had shared the joy and the hope.
The profusion of pink pussy hats and pink attire, the vast sea of people and the incredible signs everywhere were stunning. There were people of all ages and I surely was not the oldest person there by any stretch of the imagination. I was surprised by the large number of men—probably 20%, we thought. While the March was billed as fighting for Women’s Rights and Human Rights, the overwhelming sentiment and vibe was anti-Trump. The signs were incredibly pointed and sharp in their biting criticism. Equally striking was the sense of peace in the crowd. Even when you were in a crowded spot, people were calm, polite, and respectful to each other – sharing a common sense of purpose—to let the President know that there were probably a million women in the Capitol who took time for their normal Sunday to tell the President that we are NOT supporting you. When you do have crowds of this size, don’t you expect there to be some sort of security? Crowds of people protesting, empty dumpsters left over from the Inauguration everywhere…and yet, I never saw a policeman. Quite frankly, I never could figure that one out…so I’m not going to speculate any nefarious motives. Even with no police presence anywhere, the day was peaceful…and I don’t think there was a person in the crowd who didn’t share the same sense of mission, purpose and satisfaction in protesting. Even if different groups were protesting for different specific causes …and you could see all those causes in the signs that were carried….it didn’t matter. Because…again, the cause that was shared vehemently was protest against the threats to everyone’s rights and individual beliefs from this Administration.
Going back to my Liberal 60s roots, I thought about the shared commitments we all felt then and the political activism that characterized my generation. After Vietnam, the body politic seemed to go “complacent” UNTIL NOW. That is my positive take away from the day and the experience. Everyone at the March realized that Democracy matters and our Rights matter and we have to stand up to fight for what we believe is right…just like we all did in the 60s. I don’t know whether everyone in that crowd actually voted…or if anyone there did vote for Trump. But each person came away with a commitment to Do Something and not sit idle. It is so sad that things have to get this bad for people to stand up for our values and rights…but if that’s what it takes…at least the million people in DC that day now know what they have to do.