Considering that the new US President has spent his first 50 days in office going to war with our country’s First Amendment Rights (and a few others as well, but we won’t get into that in this post), it seems fitting that I waited to post my reflections on the Women’s March. Turns out I feel even more compelled to bear witness and share my experience of peacefully assembling in my country’s capital.
Little known tidbit of my past: as an undergrad, not only did I double major in History and Secondary Ed, but I also earned a double minor in English and Poli Sci. I tend to overlook that I have put any special effort into the study of government. I mean, when I was in college, I leaned towards global issues–International Relations–in my coursework and didn’t have much patience for the nuts and bolts of local politics (although I did appreciate the use of parliamentary procedures in the committees and organizations I was involved in). As a Social Studies teacher, I have taught many classes of Civics over the years, but I have always been much more passionate about my History or International Relations classes–as I’m sure my former students can attest. However, I have had a heightened interest in government and politics at different points and related to different issues in the past 30 years. The past year has been one of those heightened times.
When I first heard about the Women’s March in DC back in November, I knew I wanted to go. I also knew that this would be one of those experiences that I wanted to be a part of, to experience it for myself rather than through someone else’s eyes. When word got back to me that my niece, Katie, wanted to go as well, my sister and I realized that we needed to make the journey–and make it happen we did. On Friday, January 20, 2017, I drove into Michigan where my sister, Barb, and Katie (after taking 3 semester exams) met me at my parents home so that we could road trip to Washington, DC.
We started to realize that we were a part of something important as we were driving through Ohio on I-90 and then along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Traffic was busy for a Friday evening in late January and we kept passing or were passed by these cars with Illinois and Michigan and Iowa and _______ license plates that were often full of women wearing those pink pussy hats.
We started to get reports on our Facebook feeds that people we knew were already in DC or elsewhere, preparing for Saturday marches in nearby towns throughout the country–and overseas. Definitely a rush knowing that there were so many cool people that I admire and respect who were also involved. Come on, there ended up being over 100 people who marched across the bridge that connects Hancock and Houghton, Michigan in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as well as another 20+ further north at the top of US41 in Copper Harbor, Michigan on Saturday, January 21st! This was a big deal.
Stopping at the rest areas on I-80 and I-76, we also noticed a subtle buzz, but it was getting late and so it was more like we missed the pre-event cocktails (and servers were cleaning up) and we needed to get going if we wanted to make the main shindig. Driving along I-70 was where we met up with all of the other late arrivals heading into DC–and intense fog.
We made it to DC in a little over 8 hours and to the home of a very dear friend without too many issues, arriving just after midnight. I crashed right away, but Katie stayed up to create her sign, with her mom’s moral support.
And this was Katie’s final product.
We woke up to an overcast day and headed to the Pentagon Station to catch the train. After more than 20 years of using public transportation in cities like Chicago, Boston, London, New York, DC and LA, I have never experienced the congestion we did utilizing Washington DC’s mass transit system that Saturday in January! It was crazy!!!! What was truly amazing was how calm everyone seemed to be and the amount of positive energy floating around. There were plenty of “where are you from?” conversations while standing in line and a number of rounds of the chant “This is what Democracy looks like!”
It took almost an hour to catch a train in to DC, but once we were on board, the ride was quick. But then it was quite crowded getting out of the stations once we made the trip.
And then we were there!
Frankly, I was blown away by all of the signs!!!!
And the diversity of people in attendance was wonderful.
The logistics of the March were a little challenged in DC due to the Inauguration the day before. The organizers weren’t given permission to use the Mall for the speeches and instead the speakers were set up in front of the National Museum of the American Indian which was not ideal for the huge numbers that turned out (I’m sorry; there were more than 500,000 people in DC for the Women’s March–which no one anticipated). Every street around the Museum was jam packed with humanity–but there were very few port-a-potties, Jumbotrons to watch the speakers, or food trucks. Basically people were standing (and sitting if you were lucky) around waiting for the March to begin–and that started later in the afternoon.
By early afternoon, Barb, Katie and I started making our way over to the Newseum for food and a potty break, knowing that we had passes to get in from a special, awesome friend who hooked us up. Trying to get through the crowd to the other side of the Mall was ridiculous, but we had luck on our side and inadvertently found a street that was closed to only emergency vehicles and pedestrians that took us directly UNDER the Mall! How cool was that? And what did we find on the other side? Very few people on Constitution Avenue and lots of empty port-a-potties! Woo hoo!!!!!
When we zigged up to Pennsylvania Avenue, we found marchers who were on their way to the White House. We marched for a bit (ok, enough to get pictures 🙂 ) and then went into the Newseum to use the facilities and grab a bite to eat before heading up to the 6th floor for one of the best views in the Capitol of the March.
And then the March was over and we headed back across the Potomac–along with a huge number of fellow marchers who crowded onto the Metro. On Sunday, those out-of-towners–like ourselves–who hadn’t left yet, crammed onto the expressways and tollways and interstates and turnpikes and headed home. Exhausted? Yes. Motivated? Yes. Determined? Yes? Content that this effort was all that was necessary to make our voices heard? Not even close. We returned home with purpose.