The night of the election, and the day after the election, when my husband and I despaired about what a Trump presidency would mean for our country and were obsessively checking our Facebook feeds and asking ourselves and our friends what we should do, we found a movement to march on Washington D.C. We called the dogsitter and purchased bus tickets, busted out the acrylics and painted a slogan based on a phrase that emerged from one of the dozens of frustrated, outraged, despairing conversations we’d shared over the last two months, and boarded at 1 in the morning this past Saturday. And we marched on Washington.
You can’t really see my purple #refugeeswelcome button in support of IRIS in Connecticut, but it’s there. As well as my “get shit done” pink bandanna that makes appearances when I tackle major cleaning projects or holiday dinners. Or the possibility of tear gas.
As we walked the two miles from where dozens of buses parked in RFK stadium – I heard estimates of 1200 buses later – to the rallying point for the CT group, we passed smiling National Guardsmen and women and D.C. officers wishing us good morning. Some men in an armored car waved to us and gave us a thumbs up. Residents chatted with us from their windows. Lawn signs that had been put up for Martin Luther King Jr. Day with quotes from him, and it was an amazing experience to pass them in the quiet of Saturday morning and read them as I went to march for human rights.
I’d like to say the level of camaraderie was surprising, but it really wasn’t. Women came with garbage bags full of extra pink hats that they were passing out to strangers. Volunteers, cops, and other rally attendees pointed each other in the right directions. We passed an older couple who said “don’t mind us, we’re a little slow,” and all I could think to say was, “I’m glad you’re here.”
Women of all backgrounds and abilities were here. On the other side of the museum, American Indian women in full traditional dress and Standing Rock t-shirts were talking with passersby. People involved with Black Lives Matter were there. Men were there joining in the chants, like echoing the women’s “My body, my choice” with “Their body, their choice.” We did a few “this is what a feminist looks like” chants, once at the very moment a college bro walked by with a sign reading “this is what a feminist looks like,” to much cheering. I saw more rollators and more wheelchairs than ever before, and tons of “We the People” posters portraying women in star-spangled hijab and proud Latina women. Some participants snapped photos of our sign or gave us nods of agreement.
Even though by 11 am the crowds were impossible, and we couldn’t hear the speakers or even see the giant screen, and though we were squished so close that we could barely lift our arms and it took us half an hour just to cross to the opposite corner of the street in a vain attempt to meet up with friends two blocks away, and though the march portion itself didn’t start until 2:30 though it was scheduled for 1:00, and even though my energy and my back both gave out around 3:30 and we didn’t make it to the White House or to see any of our friends, we were part of this, and we showed up for a massive peaceful protest that we felt was our duty as Americans to attend.
I am 30 years old, and I just attended my first big political demonstration.
Other things that happened:
- “We don’t want your little hands anywhere near our underpants!”
- “Build a fence around Mike Pence!”
- Gloria Steinem and BLM activists and other women of color were among the speakers
- Way less garbage than I would have expected considering march organizers planned for 200,000 attendees and there were more than 500,000
- “Tree people” hanging out and letting us know when there was movement
- Talking to women who bused there overnight from Missouri
- Lots of signs held by older women along the lines of “I can’t believe I’m still marching for this”
- Coffee shop workers who kept their places warm, their bathrooms open, and their patience intact
- Pro-life women were apparently at the march, and I am so happy that they came despite the controversy over listing them as partners
- A truly lovely older woman from my church, who went to Nicaragua with me and helps with the refugee family we sponsor, appeared at our bus pickup and I realized I had expected to run into her all along.
- Two other people in my RCIA class marched in Washington
- A huge number of friends and acquaintances attended marches in L.A., Philadelphia, Manhattan
I am so glad that I was part of this.