Attending the Women’s March on Washington
The day after the United States presidential inauguration, over three million people marched across the country to demand that the new administration reject misogyny and protect women’s rights. The Women’s March on Washington promoted human rights, social and economic justice, reproductive freedom, LGBT rights, and a host of other issues ranging from immigration reform to climate change.
The Women’s March on Washington began when one woman created a Facebook event to express her disappointment with the election results and the president’s attitude towards women. Her single action culminated in a march that attracted half a million participants. Women in large cities and rural towns across the USA who wanted to march, but were unable to travel to DC, also began organizing sister marches in their communities. Shortly after, women in cities all around the world initiated global sister marches, resulting in a march on every continent, including Antarctica.
As a Colorado resident, I participated in the Women’s March in Denver. Initially projected at 30,000 people, attendance unexpectedly swelled to nearly five times that number. It is estimated that between 150,000 – 200,000 people peacefully gathered together to march through the city and have their voices heard. The crowd was comprised of mostly women, although children and men also attended.
Occasionally I found myself holding back tears. Tears of incomprehension and anger over the state of my nation which had prompted us to assemble, and tears of joy and exhilaration at the intensity and power that surrounded me.
Amidst a sea of pink “pussy hats”, knit by women as symbols against sexual assault, I marched, chanted, and occasionally wept, as the collective energy of the crowd began to fill me with hope for the first time since the election. I marched with my daughter for her future, I marched with several good friends committed to social justice, and I marched with many thousands of new-found sisters.
The feeling of ‘oneness’ was overwhelming at times, and occasionally I found myself holding back tears. Tears of incomprehension and anger over the state of my nation which had prompted us to assemble, and tears of joy and exhilaration at the intensity and power that surrounded me. I smiled through my tears as I realized that I had raised two daughters who were taking action in two different cities across the country.
Attending the Women’s March on Washington
Protest signs were everywhere, some funny, some angry, some irreverent, and all motivating and heartfelt. One sign captured my personal sentiments, stating “Too many issues for one sign”. Another caught my attention, stating, “I can’t believe I’m still protesting this crap”. At one point, the march route took us through a short tunnel-like passage that amplified every sound. A marcher chanted: “Tell me what democracy looks like”, and the enormous crowd responded “This is what democracy looks like”. Our voices, magnified by concrete, spirit, and resolution, sounded more unified and powerful than I could ever have imagined.
At the march rally, the organizer told an inspirational story. She had noticed that a march had not been planned for Denver, and when she mentioned it to her husband, he responded that someone would probably organize one. She turned out to be that someone, and we turned out for the march. I believe this combination of personal conviction and grassroots activism is precisely what will restore our democracy.
Our voices, magnified by concrete, spirit, and resolution, sounded more unified and powerful than I could ever have imagined.
A disturbing and poignant moment occurred at the rally when another speaker read the definition of sexual assault, and asked the crowd to raise their hand if they had ever had an experience that met the definition. An alarming number of women bravely raised their hands, and as I looked at the expanse of arms held high, I recognized the ongoing struggle that women face every single day.
It was a moment where grief, anger, and empowerment coexisted purposefully within our minds and bodies, and activated our collective consciousness. A silence hung in the air until the speaker thanked the crowd for showing Congress the impact of “locker room talk” that our new president had alluded to some weeks before. At that point, the crowd erupted into cheers, holding their protest signs high.
After the march, I asked some women to describe their experience, and the words that came up–empowering, hopeful, connected, and energizing–were universally positive. Everyone I know who participated came away with a new sense of determination and unity. Even the police along the march route were smiling and high-fiving the marchers.
By calling and writing to our Congressional representatives, attending town hall meetings, showing up to demonstrations, donating to nonprofit organizations, harnessing our purchasing power, or joining with local activist groups, we can each make a difference.
Every march begins with a step, and every step moves us closer to our goals. I left the march with a sense of renewed activism, and it’s a good thing, because laws, policies, and democratic principles continue to be erased or challenged daily. Since the march, so many damaging, frightening, and potentially unconstitutional executive orders have been issued, that every citizen concerned about our democracy will need to take some sort of action to resist the harmful agenda of the current administration.
By calling and writing to our Congressional representatives, attending town hall meetings, showing up to demonstrations, donating to nonprofit organizations, harnessing our purchasing power, or joining with local activist groups, we can each make a difference. Join your community Indivisible Group or Women’s March Chapter, and enter your Senator’s numbers in your contact list so you can call them daily. If you begin to feel overwhelmed, practice self-care, and take social media breaks to stay healthy and avoid burn out. Saving our democracy is essential and difficult work, but together, we can make it happen.
The Women’s March awakened a sleeping dragon, reignited its fiery breath, and energized its powerful body from tongue to tail. There is no stopping it now, as daily protests and acts of resistance play out across the United States. As we advocate for human rights, democratic values, and the protection of our planet, remember that the march was just the beginning of our movement. We will keep marching forward because that is what democracy looks like.
Attending the Women’s March on Washington photo credit by Unsplash.