Accuweather had forecast a sunny day in Washington, D.C., for the Jan. 21 Women’s March on Washington. Instead the day was cloudy with intermittent drizzle. Many in the crowd jokingly claimed Mother Nature was in mourning. Yet the crowd was positive, supportive, and often jubilant as chants leap-frogged across the masses. “Tell me what democracy looks like! THIS is what democracy looks like!!”
By the time speakers took the stage we were standing shoulder-to-shoulder and backs-to-chests, with less than inches separating us from our neighbors. The occasional breathing space occurred when medics and ambulances parted the sea of people to help those in need. And as the vehicles inched forward more demonstrators poured forward into their wake. And when the streets were full, people took to climbing trees and sitting on walls and port-a-potties for view.
Ashley Judd, Gloria Steinem, Michael Moore, Angela Davis, Scarlett Johansson, Alisha Keyes and other performers and icons of the women’s rights movements, the civil rights movements, LGBT, Planned Parenthood, and mothers of slain activists came forward to speak calmly or forcefully, passionately, sometimes angrily about what they all believed to be the expected reversal of rights under the new administration.
Thousands of protest signs peppered the crowd. “We will not turn back”; “Womens Rights are Human Rights”, “POTUS 45 LIAR predator BULLY CON”; an image of a school of little fishes about to devour a big fish with long yellow hair, with this single word below: “ORGANIZE”; “Don’t let Trump and Pruitt turn EPA into Every Polluters Ally”; and “My America: Kindness Character Diversity” were just a few of the statements carried forth on signs, clothing, pins and banners.
The organizers expected about 200,000 to attend. Professional crowd estimates put the actual number in attendance closer to 500,000. Because of this unexpectedly large turnout, the speaker system and temporary jumbotrons were inadequate and intermittent and the crowd was left sometimes trying lip-read the speakers, or piece together what was being said. But the message never failed to come through: this crowd – and its sister crowds throughout the world – were not willing to let the new administration hollow out civil rights, defund affordable health care or Planned Parenthood, our environment, or our right to free speech.
On the day after the march The Women’s March on Washington website reported that 673 official “Sister Marches” took place in unity with the Washington march. An estimated 4.8 million people throughout the U.S. and in 79 other countries protested the new President and his administration, and its stated goals of dismantling the EPA, the public school system, the health care system, and much more.
Michael Moore gave this daily assignment: “Number one: WAKE UP; Number two : “brush your teeth”…Number five: CALL CONGRESS….” (at 202.225.3121) and let your voices be heard.
As the speakers continued for nearly 90 minutes past what was to have been only a two-hour program, and the chants of “March, March, March!” grew louder and more steady, a stream of pink “pussy hats” heading toward the National Mall grew to a rivulet, then a stream, then a steady river and soon a flood of hats and signs and poured out into the Mall, across the streets of Washington, onto the Metros and buses and cars, to take these voices back to their homes and communities across the nation.
Sturgeon Bay, Wis.