The March That Was Too Big to March
Pink was the color of the day at the Women’s March on D.C. However, there was also purple, and rainbow, and red and white, and black and white. Organizers were expecting 250,000; it is estimated that a million people showed up for the march.
Women made up the majority of the audience, but there were a lot more men than expected. And tons of kids. There were people in wheelchairs, pregnant women, and people of all color and nationalities.
According to the organizers, the march “held on the first day of the new presidential administration, the Women’s March on Washington aims to send a message to all levels of government and the incoming administration: that we stand together in solidarity and expect elected leaders to act to protect the rights of women, their families and their communities.”
Ridership on Metro exceeded expectations with trains running frequently and with few glitches. Trains were crowded, but the majority of riders made it to the march on time and there was a feeling of euphoria and good will. Riders cheered as they got on the train and as they got off. People who heeded the advice to purchase their Metro cards ahead of time were rewarded as they missed the long lines to purchase cards.
The station manager at L’Enfant Plaza even got into the act as he directed riders with a megaphone to go to the left or the right – and even did a little dance.
Crowds poured out of the metro station onto the streets of D.C. While there were no signs or people directing traffic, people just went with the flow – and stopped when they could go no further.
By 10 a.m., the crowds were well past Sixth Street, NW and Independence Avenue. Jumbotrons were located at the corners at Fourth and Independence and at other locations. It was standing room only.
All kinds of signs dotted the landscape. Some were familiar, like ‘Feminists Fight Back,’ ‘I’m with her’ and ‘Protect our Future-Climate Change is real.’ Others were more off-color, such as, ‘My Pussy Isn’t Up for Grabs,’ ‘There You Have It Folks, an Actual Croc of Shit.’
And then some signs were just downright clever, like ‘You Can’t Comb Over Sexism.’ Children lent their own voices with signs saying, ‘You Break my Heart’ and ‘Though She May be Little, She is Fierce.’
People came from all over the world. Two women from Alabama were staying in Alexandria, and said that there was a school group staying in the same hotel who had been there for the inauguration, having booked it a year ago. “I think that if it wasn’t for the buses, there would have been even fewer people at the inauguration,” she said.
A group of grammar school friends from Connecticut came together to participate in the historic event. Berkeley students cheered when Sen. Kamala Harris, D-CA, mentioned the university in her comments. Most of the states designated meeting places for their constituents to come together at the beginning of the march. Others held receptions at the Capitol after the rally.
The crowd welcomed well-known speakers, such as Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem, Ashley Judd, Scarlett Johansson, Melissa Harris-Perry, Michael Moore, Amanda Nguyen and Van Jones. Performers included Janelle Monae Maxwell, Angelique Kidjo, Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Indigo Girls, MC Lyte, Samantha Ronson, Toshi Reagon, Emily Wells, DJ Rekha, St. Beauty, Beverly Bond, Alia Sharif, DJ Remarkable, Amber Coffman, and Climbing PoeTree. Madonna and Ashley Keyes were last-minute performers. A group of largely female senators and other politicians took the stage. Among them were Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY; Senator Claire McCaskill, D-MO.; newly elected senators Kamala Harris, D-CA; Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.; and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-CA. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. was also there but did not speak.
In order to satisfy the many competing coalitions, the speaker list included over 40 speakers, causing the rally to go on way too long. Instead of the march starting at 1:15 p.m., as originally planned, the rally continued until past 2:30 p.m. Crowds were packed… so tightly that one woman had a panic attack and had to hold onto a wall at the American Air and Space Museum. A pregnant woman tried to move through the crowd to get to the bathroom. While there were tons of porta potties along the mall and on Independence Street, most of the crowd couldn’t get to them. The American Air and Space Museum had plenty of bathrooms, but they required visitors to go through security, which made the wait at least an hour long.
Nancy Iovino, Gale Curcio, Carol Martens Price, Jody Zeman, Susan Richards and Lindsay Richards
The March was originally planned to proceed west on Independence Avenue SW from Third Street SW, to Fourteenth Street SW, then turn north on Fourteenth Street SW to Constitution Avenue NW, continue west on Constitution Avenue NW to Seventeenth Street NW, and conclude near the Ellipse and Washington Monument. There were so many people, however, that actually marching proved to be impossible. Finally, around 2:30, one of the organizers said, “Go North!” And with that, the crowd started moving towards the mall towards the Washington Monument. The mall, which had been reserved for other protests, was half empty, making it easy for marchers to proceed.
Barricades along the mall, supposedly left over from the inauguration, occasionally tripped people up, but spirits remained high with chants of “Hell No, We Won’t Go” and “Say it loud, say it clear, migrants are welcome here.”
The group tried to get to the White House, but they were prevented to from getting near the premises. Metro continued to work well, getting people home until late in the evening. Some vandalism was reported, but it appears that they were caused by protests that were occurring concurrently with the women’s march.
Photos by Gale Curcio