* Photos by Amy Santos
This Saturday, our day started at the New Carrollton Metro stop just outside Washington DC. We knew the rally was going to be massive when we saw that the line for metro tickets stretched back several blocks to the ramp off the highway. Luckily we already had purchased our tickets in advance.
When boarding, the train filled well over capacity. New Carrollton being the last stop, we had to pass all the other closer stops with out picking up additional passengers. It reminded me of being home on the NYC L train subway line.
In DC there were people in all directions. It is impossible to explain how full the city felt. The main event with the stage and speakers was actually only a part of the overall event since far less than half of the marchers could actually fit in the space set up for that part of the rally. The crowd stretched back shoulder to shoulder for several blocks behind the main stage despite there not being a speaker system or televisions facing that way to see and hear what was happening.
You may be wondering what it is like to be in the middle of a crowd of 750 000 to a million protestors. The roar of the crowd was deafening at times, a wash of white noise like a furious ocean.
We managed to get to a place with a side view of the stage. Again, everyone was shoulder to shoulder, foot to foot, but even closer now somehow. Any kind of mobility more than a torso turn to the left or right was left to the collective will. Still, no one seemed to panic.
The message was simple and displayed not only in words but action and tone. Being in the middle of that crowd I finally fully realized that this was not a rally of hate or fear of an opposing side. It was the peaceful expression of a growing movement for equality, compassion and understanding. It was a comforting community.
To that point, one of the greatest successes of this Saturday seems to be the unification of so many civil rights factions. In the past six months Donald Trump has become a global symbol for racism, sexism and classism. Though given ample opportunity to, he has done nothing significant to defend himself against any such charges.
Groups like Planned Parenthood, Gathering for Justice, Moms Demand Action, Arab American Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Pro-Choice America, ACLU, American Federation of Teachers and too many more to list, now have in Trump one common and paramount threat to rally against. Hearing a near million chant things like “We will not go away, welcome to your first day,” it has become clear that this movement is in for the long haul.
It is important to note that considering the race, economic and gender diversity I witnessed in DC on Saturday, I find it best to think of the Woman’s March not as a woman only movement but more as a movement of full inclusion.
I think California Senator Kamala Harris expressed it perfectly yesterday when she spoke at the rally saying:
“I was elected as the first woman or the first woman of color and folks would come up to me and they would say, Kamala, talk to us about women’s issues and I would look at them and I would say I am so glad you want to talk about the economy. I would say, great, let’s talk about the economy because that is a woman’s issue. I’d say you want to talk about women’s issues, let’s talk about national security. You want to talk about women’s issues, that’s fantastic, let’s talk about health care, education, let’s talk about criminal justice reform, let’s talk about climate change.
We all know the truth. If you are a woman trying to raise a family, you know that a good paying job is a women’s issue. If you are a woman who is an immigrant who does not want her family torn apart, you know that immigration reform is a women’s issue. If you are a woman working off student loans, you know the crushing burden of student debt is a woman’s issue. If you are a black mother trying to raise a son, you know black lives is a woman’s issue. If you are a woman period, you know we deserve a country with equal pay and access to health care, including a safe and legal abortion protected as a fundamental and constitutional right.”
The most important message that I take from this historical event is that even though you may personally believe the issues Senator Kamala Harris mentioned to be self-evident, we no longer live in a world where you can blindly count on them to be preserved. No longer is it enough to casually read blogs and make comments on Facebook, Twitter, Periscope or the like. We need to go out and engage the world.
I urge you to voice your opinion as loud as you can. If you do this you will be heard. Each person came who came to DC this Saturday made sacrifices to be there. They did this out of a great feeling of urgency. Through their individual effort they proved that a million voices speaking a simple and reasonable truth at once can be heard around the world.
I’ll leave you with some inspiring words said at this Saturday’s rally by the great activist and author Angela Davis:
“Over the next months and years we will be called upon to intensify our demands for social justice to become more militant in our defense of vulnerable populations. Those who still defend the supremacy of white male hetero-patriarchy had better watch out….The next 1459 days of the Trump administration will be 1459 days of resistance: Resistance on the ground, resistance in the classrooms, resistance on the job, resistance in our art and in our music….This is just the beginning and in the words of the inimitable Ella Baker, ‘We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.’”
* Post was edited at 12:54 pm Jan 23. Line removed in section on diversity of the march