This Is What Democracy Looks Like
On a misty Saturday in the nation’s capital, swaths of pink joyously, defiantly cut through the gray day, as 500,000-strong marchers made their presence known to the newly inaugurated president. Many traveled hundreds of miles to join their sisters and brothers in solidarity, protesting the platform of misogyny, bigotry and racism of the new administration.
I traveled to D.C. from Baltimore, boarding a school bus full of women of all ages who were chatty and excited, even at 5:30 in the morning. The talk centered on the different reasons why we were all marching.
“I’m marching because in Texas, there are third-graders who are worried about their parents and their family members when they cross the border, and they’re afraid for their safety and that of their family,” says Lisa, a writer.
“I march for equality, for women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigrant rights and for the rights of anyone that Trump targeted during this election, especially immigrants,” says Jessica, one of the organizers of the trip. “I absolutely cannot stand that man and everything he stands for. If I say what I’m standing for, it’s a bunch of things, but if I say what I’m standing against, it’s just one thing—it’s Trump and Trumpism.”
This being a bus full of women, women’s rights was a topic of choice. “If you’re going to generalize about women, I’d say women have more empathy. It’s like a superpower,” someone pipes up.
When we got to D.C., we hopped on a metro jam-packed with sign-toting marchers. There was an exhilarating sense of camaraderie, as strangers struck up conversations with each other. My friend and I sat next to an African-American grandmother named Jackie who lived through the civil rights movement and was ready to fight all over again. There were many men, too, holding up signs that said, “Women’s rights are human rights.” I couldn’t help but think of Hillary Clinton, the originator of that quote. This day was a repudiation of Trump, yes, but it was also an acknowledgment of the path she’s cleared for the rest of us.
We emerged from the Metro and rode a very long escalator up, still unaware of what we would find when we got aboveground. It was 9 a.m., still an hour before the rally. When we see sky, the sight of the crowd against the backdrop of the Capitol was nothing short of breathtaking. There were signs of all kinds—some funny, some incisive, some cribbed from Grey’s Anatomy (I haven’t seen so many illustrations of a uterus since my pre-med days.) There was chanting of “This is what democracy looks like!” and “Hands too small!” And the sea of pussyhats—the totem of this march—spilled out onto the streets. I hummed a riff of a song from Les Misérables, “Do you hear the people sing …,” to the staccato of the chants. It was nothing short of a hot-pink revolution.
When we got to the start of the march, the crowd was so thick that we couldn’t get close enough to the stage to hear the speakers. We literally inched our way in and got there just in time to hear Gloria Steinem, the mother of second wave feminism, speak. Many more speakers came up: Michael Moore exhorted the crowd to call their senators; Ashley Judd riled the crowd of “nasty” women; Scarlett Johansson shared a personal story about Planned Parenthood and talked about her concern for her own daughter. Unscripted and stripped of glamour, she was a fierce avenger of women’s rights. There were other speakers, too, who may not have had star power but whose stories were just as impactful, including 6-year-old girl Sophie Cruz, who brought many to tears with her message of inclusion, delivered in Spanish and in English.
After four hours of standing, we were hungry and our legs were tired, but in this gathering of strangers, there was kindness everywhere. When someone felt ill, a medic was called, via each person passing the word along through the crowd and making way for help. People shared their snacks and handed tissues to those waiting to use the Porta Potties. There was laughter and cheers and high-fives. Fathers hoisted their young daughters on their shoulders. Younger people made way for the older folks. And even when the crowd started to chant “Start the march! Start the march!,” there was no pushing or exchange of harsh words—just half a million people who had galvanized for a common cause.
On this historic day in Washington—and across 60 countries and seven continents, it turns out—a marcher summed it up best when she said, “It’s a privilege to love everybody.”
Love trumps hate, indeed. –Genevie Durano, Managing Editor
A Weekend in D.C.
Walking up to gate 21 I couldn’t help but smile—the kind of smile when you receive a flirty text or when you think of something funny and can’t hold it in. The line at gate 21 was speckled with shades of pink knit hats. So many women boarded the plane and unlike the usual hums and whispers you here while waiting to step onto the airbus, the jet bridge was filled with chatter and laughter. There’s a sense of excitement that keeps everyone up on the red eye flight.
After landing at BWI, from plane to train, the crowd changed from pussy hats to red caps prompting me to dig mine out of my backpack and wear it in a sea of southern accents. My Amtrak seatmate Joy was a joy. We didn’t talk politics. It would be the only time I didn’t talk politics all weekend. Instead she told me about her family and husband who is going through chemo. Maybe she had other things to worry about than a new president. Arriving at Union Station, Joy gave me a map and a hug and we parted ways. The inauguration begins in less than two hours.
I stop for coffee then accidently find myself at the front of the anti-Trump protest. I walk silently along the crowd for what seems like three hours. There is a tinge of edginess when we pass police in riot gear that would later prove to escalate. I stop into Bolt Burgers to use the bathroom and for a beer. J.C. from Palm Beach Florida, who I call Jesus Christ, sits next to me and shares his holy fries as we watch President Trump sign the official papers on CNN. One man yells “DISGRACE! DISGRACE!” Moments later, flash-bang grenades sound and tear gas mist billows outside Bolt. And I’m seeing what’s happening just feet away from me on the same news cast. I leave and J.C. tells me to stay safe. Later, I see an old and young man get into a fist fight. I hope tomorrow is different.
And it is. The metro into the city for the Women’s March is packed so full there is literally not room for anyone else, but somehow we manage to make space for two more extra-curvy ladies. An old woman’s head is near my armpit but she isn’t phased. Her and her friend start to sing John Lennon’s “Power to the People” before we get to our stop. “Power to the people, right on!”
The crowds are too dense near the speakers. My friends, who I met up with earlier, and I didn’t bother to to fight them. Instead we make our way to the Washington Monument to wait for the march so we can join in. A dad and his son are playing hand ball against the monolithic memorial. Like them, everyone is happy. I’ve never seen so many smiling, empowered women and little girls in my life.
We jump in the march. There are so many clever signs: “We shall overcomb,” What precious snowflakes can do” with a picture of a 10-car blizzard pileup, and “This pussy fights back.” The word “pussy” that used to make women squirm is now innocuous as the word is pasted on many signs. We march our way through traffic where people are sitting on their cars and honking their horns. Construction workers there to work the inauguration are donning their pink hats and old men hold signs that say “Grandpas for equality.”
We make our way to White House where people left those witty signs on the front gate before heading back to the metro. The whole weekend was out of the ordinary and surreal I don’t know if I fully understand it, but knowing there were marches like this all around the globe fosters a sense of unity I doubt I will experience again.
Boarding the plane back home, the flight attendant gets on the speaker and compliments all the beautiful women on the plane and thanks them for marching. A group in the back starts chanting “Trump! Trump! Trump! Trump!” and the women start to laugh. Trump may be our new president, but we now we know we’re unstoppable. -Jessie O’Brien, DTLV.com editor
Las Vegas: Stronger Together
The Llama Lot in Downtown Las Vegas was too small to contain everyone who showed up! I came by myself and marched alongside parents with their kids, people with disabilities and people chanting in Spanish, “Si se puede!” Cops smiled and nodded as we marched by. And some troll dressed as Hitler—mustache and arm raised in a 45-degree angle—solicited nothing but shade as we marched past chanting, “Stronger, together, we won’t fall! Justice, peace and equality for all!” Saturday’s march was a transformation of fear, anger and hurt into strength, optimism and solidarity in four years of resistance to come (unless he gets impeached, first, fingers crossed). –Shannon Miller, Editorial Assistant