Uncertain what exactly to expect of the Women’s March on DC, but knowing that we wanted to both witness it and be a part of it, we left Fredericksburg, VA at about 8AM on 2 January 2017 on one of two Rally buses carrying 100 or so of our neighbors up to DC. Many more had driven up the night before, or were taking the train or metro in that morning. The Washington Post had warned that at least 1,200 charter buses were expected to park at RFK Stadium for the event but, by the looks of the lot as we arrived, they may have underestimated. Row after row after row of buses let us know that this thing was going to be, well, HUGE.
We didn’t wear “Pussy Hats.” We didn’t even wear pink. To be honest, we dressed pretty much as if this was another day-hike in cloudy 50° weather. Low key. Henri got a transparent backpack, as recommended by March organizers, and had adorned it with a couple of stickers. Other than that, we were probably two of the more demure marchers of the day. Not to worry. A virtual sea of pink washed over DC and there were more pink hats on both women and men than could have been counted successfully.
The sheer number of people who showed up to march was breathtaking, but that wasn’t even the most impressive part. Here’s what impressed us the most: People’s attitudes. From the moment we stepped off the bus in DC, employees of the city were all smiles and encouragement. Every person we encountered who was working the event that day — police, Union Station employees, street security, DC Streetcar employees — ALL of them were smiling, welcoming, patient. They appeared genuinely happy about the day’s turnout despite the fact that it meant a lot of work and probably more than one headache for them.
We spent several hours squished shoulder-to-shoulder on the National Mall waiting for the March to, well, march. People could not move. People could barely squeeze through the crowd to get to Don’s Johns. We were people from all different genders, ethnicities, socio-economic situations, ages, religions, and backgrounds. And yet. From start to finish, we saw people being kind, helpful, supportive, and encouraging to one another. We saw nobody succumb to being tired or hungry, or to the potentially claustrophobic conditions by lashing out at others or resorting to what could have been an ‘every man for himself’ mentality. People were proud to be here. They stayed mindful of the purpose of it and the reality that it was something bigger than any one of us. They looked out for each other, made room for one another, lifted each other up, and showed more patience, human decency, and love than one might have thought possible under the conditions.
As it turns out, this was much, much more than a women’s march. Yes, there were lots and lots of women and men there marching with signs expressing their fears for “women’s issues,” like continued reproductive rights and funding for Planned Parenthood (and their determination to fight for the protection of both). And, yes, there were also lots of people there expressing outrage about Trump’s history of behavior and attitudes toward women. But this march was about way more than issues affecting women (which are issues that actually affect all people in one way or another). This march was about major, important issues of concern to America and the world.
In addition to the photo collage at the end of this post, you can see even more of Fergus’ photojournalistic shots of the day HERE.
We saw people from all walks of life marching…
…in favor of embracing diversity
…against the the denigration & vilification of religions, races, or ethnicities
…fed up with gun violence
…against Trump’s apparent dishonesty
…against Trump’s alleged connections to Russia & support of (and from) Putin
…against DeVos and in support of public education
…against Pruitt and in support of climate science
…asking for the government to protect public lands
…in favor of equal rights and respect for LGBTQIA+ Americans
…in support of Americans with disabilities
…against the lack of transparency and Trump’s potential financial conflicts of interest
…expressing the desire to steward Earth better, and fear that this administration will not
After hours of waiting to march, we literally couldn’t. The planned route for the Women’s March was completely filled with people — there was no way to march on the route. Word eventually came down through the crowds to march peacefully where we could, and the mass of people began to break up and move through the city. As we filtered out past the Mall, we passed a small band of about 20 “Bikers for Trump” trying to hold a counter-rally in the midst of an enclave of port-a-potties. It was a striking contrast to the roaring swell of pink marching directly past them. Still, some Women’s March folks stopped to listen — without altercation — for a bit before marching on. [EDIT/UPDATE 22 Jan 2017: Apparently, some of the Women’s March participants did eventually disrupt the Bikers for Trump rally. We’re not exactly sure from this Youtube video who really can be blamed for the violence — looks an awful lot to us like a big angry biker getting physical with a skinny older man based on very little provocation — but it seems to have been short lived. Nothing like this was happening when we were there, and the police report no arrests or major incidents during the day.]