On January 21st I participated in what will be remembered as the largest human rights protest in our history, the Women’s March On Washington. The march was not restricted to location, with sister marches taking place all around the world for a total of over 3 million participants. Nor was it restricted to gender, race or sex. Both marchers and speakers of all different walks of life and backgrounds came to stand up for the rights of women, of people of color, of immigrants and other groups dangerously further marginalized by the discriminatory agenda of the Trump administration.
But while the concern rightfully shifts to the actions that will follow and sustaining this incredible energy established by the movement, for the sake of posterity and the preservation of this moment in time when so many came together, I want to take this space and hold it to share the memories of some of those who participated in and supported these marches.
At times funny, often heartbreaking but always real- this is what that day meant to them:
Design by Harmony Pilobello
“I am lucky in that I was able to share the Boston Women’s March with my mother, who came down from Maine to join. During her own time in Boston, my mother participated in numerous antiwar demonstrations and protests against the Vietnam War and would often distribute (and at times, create) pamphlets to inform the public of matters such as employees working under unsafe and unfair conditions. She recalls attending rallies on the Common with her own parents and walking through what is now Downtown Crossing and happening upon an impromptu gathering led by pacifist presidential candidate, Eugene McCarthy. Guided by the example of her own parents who had escaped poverty and then dedicated their lives to working for social justice, my mother went on to become a union labor lawyer and while she no longer practices, plans to volunteer her time to support any individuals living in Maine that might find themselves unprotected and at risk under the current administration. Standing next to her on Saturday, my mom was moved by Mayor Marty Walsh’s celebration of the history of protest in Boston and remarked that it was her first time being present at a demonstration where part of the official government was on the side of the protestors.
I was also touched by the peacefulness of the day and by the support of officers and the transit police. As one officer remarked as he facilitated the entry of massive crowds waiting outside of the T station, ‘I’m not bothered at all, I don’t mind doing this if it’s for a good cause.’ I have often cast a critical eye on Boston and have viewed it as a city that has been unable to escape the segregation that characterized it in the past. The racial and economic differences between neighborhoods increase with each passing year and after living here for almost a decade, I feel ready to move on. That being said, I am so fortunate to have been in Boston on Saturday and feel a renewed appreciation and love for this place and for the people that have poured their efforts into improving life for its inhabitants.
Saturday was both a bright spot in a series of dark months as well as a sobering vision of the fragile state of affairs. The energy and camaraderie that was shared across crowded sidewalks and streets is only significant if it is not confined to that one day. It is imperative that we do not lose the momentum of the March and movements begun well before election day and that we each examine our daily lives and identify specific action steps. One of my favorite signs from the march held in Augusta, Maine, that had a surprisingly high turnout of 10,000 marchers, simply states: ‘It’s going to be wicked hard but we best get there from here.’ And while the wording borrows from humor that is familiar to most Mainers, the message is one that should resonate with everyone, regardless of state. When we occupy a society that allows for the existence of ‘alternative facts’, there really is no alternative path except forward and through until we get there from here.”
-Zoe K: Boston, MA
“All of those signs! I got separated and was without cell phone service and normally I’d panic being in a sea of strangers, but I realized the Common had been transformed to one of the safest spaces for any woman to be. I was calm and happy for the first time in months. It was a beautiful feeling. My mom marched in Delaware, one aunt marched in Columbus, one aunt in Sarasota, one cousin in DC and one cousin in LA.”
-Nicole H: Boston, MA
“I thought it was amazing that so many people from all different backgrounds, ages, races, and sexes all got together for one common cause – human rights. A lot of people thought it was an anti-trump March and maybe it was but I felt it was more empowering- it was for basic rights as a woman, for all backgrounds and gay lgbtq rights. I think this March tried to encompass as much as it could, and it was just amazing that we had more people there than the inauguration and zero arrests. – everyone was very friendly and supportive, and I saw zero fights or hostility. And to also see the same thing happening all over the world – NYC, LA, Paris- Antarctica! Unbelievable that so many people can come together peacefully for a common belief. That was my bigger takeaway and a hope that we can continue this that it’s more important than ever now to keep protesting and rallying – that is was I got out of the March, I’m honored I was a part of it.”
-Courtney M: Washington, D.C.
“From my European view I enjoyed watching the news on the various marches. And the Don made his worst enemy within 24 hours of getting the job… all the women in the world.”
-Charles L: Stavanger, Norway
“I didn’t go because of plans with a friend I don’t get to see often, and [my husband] Jack had to work. BUT I was checking friends’ updates all day and smiling ear to ear when Jack told me he made a donation in our names to Planned Parenthood that day. Solidarity and hope in the things we can do even if we weren’t part of the March”
-Ericka N: Los Angeles, CA
“I’m amazed and proud of everyone that this happened and that it was an inspiring and peaceful event. With this sense of hope and energy, people and organizations are getting serious about making specific commitments to actively counter the ideas that Trump represents, and I’ve been trying to think of what I can do.”
-Inna K: Boston, MA
“In 2009 I packed an orange throw underneath my bulky winter coat, just in case. I took the subway from Dunn Loring station, and crammed in among the masses. The streets were brimming and alive.
I watched a black man with a foreign name ascend to the Presidency. We knew Obama was from America, but we couldn’t shake the sense that we had overcome our national fear of the other.
So I stood, wrapping the blanket around me and praying my toes would stop burning from the cold. The sun came out and we stood in a row with our backs to the Washington monument and our face to the Capitol.
And in 2017, I came back. Let me be frank, the crowd was whiter. Maybe it should have been. But also, maybe, what we stood for was some kind of whiteness, some kind of offended white liberalism. Maybe people who didn’t look like us didn’t feel like they were a part of that. Maybe this was the first time white people (read: white women, at least in D.C.) had been so offended by our own country, and maybe for people of color that was every day for them, so it didn’t feel right. Maybe I don’t deserve to comment on that.
The sheer depth of the crowds—the blocks on blocks we walked facing someone’s back just to arrive at a sort of March-starting point—were uplifting. The people who cheered us in Friendship Park and the crossing guards who thanked us. The scene upon arriving at the Capitol, people streaming towards the steps to take photos, people everywhere. But there was a hollowness two. When we lifted our voices to chant, the chants died out quickly — this was not a practiced protest crowd. We pushed and jostled one another because we could not avoid it. We waited patiently to move, and then cut around corners, backtracked, trying to make it to somewhere where one could move. I was angry, anger had propelled me there. But I was empty, no step I took, no song I sang, no drum I beat, no sign I held was going to take the man out of the White House, not today, not yet.
When we got to the White House, the crowd dispersed. To our left the Monument, to our right thelawn. People walked towards the House itself, they pressed forward. The fencing held us back several hundred yards, the outline of a man in black stood on the roof and black limos lay dormant and a few agents in suits were standing around, I suppose they were watching. A few intrepid people had thrown their signs over the fence and onto what might be called the front yard of the White House, or as close as they let you come now. They lay limp and white on the dull light green of the lawn, the littered wreckage of a dream that we thought had began in 2009, the dream that we could be angels of our better nature, that we would recognize goodness and reward it, no matter the person’s color or his name or his origin, that we would recognize hatred and disdain it, no matter the person’s wealth or his power or his rhetoric.
There were amazing signs, there were hilarious signs, there were heartbreaking signs. But the ones that I carry with me always now, front of my mind, were just the ones that repeated the words back that our new President had said. Just repeating back the statements were enough. Pair them with the image of his rage, and it’s more than enough, it’s devastating. You don’t need a clever joke when the darkest, sickest joke is that we watched this happen, let this happen.”
-Michelle B, Washington, D.C.
“We waited at a train platform for an hour and each train was packed with people… We left after an hour and tried to get a Lyft but we couldn’t so my friend stuck her thumb out. So many stopped to drive us but didn’t have room for all four of us. But then a couple pulled over and let us in. They played anarchist feminist 70’s punk and dropped us off right at the beginning of the march. Instantly we were overwhelmed with love and excitement. It was such a beautiful experience. It was cool and sunny weather-wise, and every street was full. Cars that drove past honked and gave us thumbs up. it felt like there was no negativity in a sea of 750,000 [people].”
-Asher C: Los Angeles, CA
“It was extremely important to me that my little brother joined his wife and me at the Boston March. It showed me just how much we mean to him and that he supports us. And I’m proud of myself for standing up for what I believe in, and don’t plan on stopping this fight.”
-Amy C: Boston, MA
“It was amazing to be surrounded by so many people who were passionate about issues close to my heart even though we all came from very different walks of life. It also inspired me to continue taking action on those issue during my day-to-day life.”
-Leah S: Washington, D.C.
“Honestly, one of the best things for me was that my mom went. And we didn’t even get to see each other just because there were so many people there. But it made me proud. And all her sisters went to rallies and marches, too. In Florida and Martha’s Vineyard and Washington.”
-Elizabeth M: Boston, MA
“Hundreds of buses in the parking lots… hundreds of people in the subways. But when we emerged from the subway to see throngs of people heading down streets to the mall area, that’s the moment I thought, Trump, his administration and Congress had better wake up….
… [My friend] is normally less vocal but no less upset by the messages and goals of the president to defund conservation and clean water efforts and to take away a woman’s right to choose. She felt strongly about the march, but the distance and multitude of people were intimidating. Her husband, sharing her beliefs and loving his wife, offered to come with her, to lend support and strength. They traveled from Vermont, pink hair and all, to speak out in unity…
[And] this is Rachel, my travel and marching buddy. I felt that many of the concerns shared by marchers could be summed up in these four words.. This was one of two signs we carried.”
-Barb J: Pittsburgh, PA
I’d like to thank all of these women and men who contributed to what has to be one of my very favorite pieces. Thank you for your honesty, your strength and your sense of humor in what has proven to be a tough time to be a person of dignity and humanity. Like all things, to see the problem is to recognize it. And we are on our way to a solution, though the road doesn’t always appear clear. As this outpouring of attention to issues and momentum has established, the silver lining has been unity amidst outright threats of division and harm.
And so begins stage one of the resistance.
You heard it here.