It's with great pleasure and many thanks that I turn over the Dept. today to a Guest Writer. Jill Meyer, a Dearest Reader and Subscriber travelled to Washington, DC, and attended the 2017 Women's March. She kindly agreed to write her thoughts and share them here with us. Jill wrote these immediately after the 21 January March, so keep that timeline in mind while reading.
Without any further preamble, here's Jill's account:
Many of you have asked me to write something about the Women's March in Washington, DC; my friend Elise and I attended on January 21, 2017. We went with her daughter, Sarah, and two of Sarah's friends who all live in West Orange, New Jersey.
Elise and I flew from Chicago to Newark on Friday, overnighted at the Marriott, and joined in on the West Orange group going to the March in DC. We left at 5 AM on one of the 14 buses organised for the group, and reached RFK Stadium parking lot at 9:30AM. The route down I-95 was jammed with buses, most of which we assumed were headed for DC. At that point in the day, I guess we assumed we would be among the 200,000 who were expected for the rally/March. That number went up and up as the day went on and people flooded the streets of DC around the Capitol. We heard that thousands of people were trapped in the Metro stations, trying to get up to the March, but the sheer number of people made getting out of the stations take up to 30 minutes.
When our bus - #14 - arrived at RFK, we quickly found Sarah and her friends. We couldn't decide how to get to the site; walking the 2 miles would take up to an hour and 15 minutes we thought, and we were by now hearing stories of people being trapped on the Metro. And this is when we caught a real break. We were directed to a nearby bus stop and told about a bus - free - that would take us directly to Union Station. We didn't have to walk or try the Metro and we jumped on the bus, amazed at our luck! We arrived at Union Station and walked the mile or so to the rally site.
By this time, the streets were filled with festive people of all ages and races. There were many men, both by themselves or accompanying the women in their lives. There were old people in wheelchairs and babies in strollers or carried by their parents, strapped to their chests or riding on their backs. Signs carried by many groups of families or friends identified them as rather varied; I saw one family group that proclaimed themselves "trans and gay, black and white". There were many multi-generational families, too.
And the signs! They were everywhere and were mostly handmade. Most were anti-Trump (along with a few anti-Pence) and ranged from fairly polite to downright scatological. I took pictures of a few signs; one was a drawing of Putin, naked and riding a horse with Trump's head. My fav, though, was a sign that read "Keep your tiny orange hands off my pussy", with a picture of a very cute looking...cat. Elise and I wore red baseball caps which read "Make America Great Again" -- in Russian. (We did verify the translation with a Russian speaker).
Our group of five managed to keep together for most of the afternoon, but at 2:30PM Elise and I walked back to Union Station and picked up our rental car. We had decided to rent a car to drive back to Newark because the bus we had come down on wasn't leaving til 7:30PM. We managed to pick up our Rav 4 before the Hertz office closed at 3:30PM and then - almost impossibly - managed to pick up Sarah and her friends! We made it back to West Orange at about 8PM, exhausted and happy to have survived the March - in all its glorious disorganisation and free-for-all fun. Elise and I flew back to Chicago this morning.
Here are my takeaways from the experience:
1. VOTING. How many young women (and others) in the crowd either hadn't voted because "both parties are the same?", or had voted for a third party candidate? There's some statistic which states that in the three important states Clinton lost, the vote difference was 60,000 between Trump and Clinton (in Trump's favor) and an astounding 250,000 votes for third party candidates. What if those third-party voters had voted for Clinton?
2. SOCIAL MEDIA. News of this March was mainly spread by social media. Supposedly, 500,000 attended the March. (The number may turn out to be higher, but for now, that's the number I'm seeing). How many of you remember seeing or reading about the Martin Luther King rally and march in August 1963? And seeing the pictures of what seemed to be hundreds of thousands of people? Well, according to Wikipedia and other sources, the attendance that day was between 200-250,000. That is half of what the numbers were from (The Women's March) yesterday. What a difference social media makes. I first became aware of this during the Arab Spring in 2011. And, of course, social media was responsible for the marches and rallies held all over the world. (A hat tip to Emily and Andy who took my grandgals to the Chicago March! Can't get started too early!)
3. NEWS REPORTING. I read several reports where the acts of violence done in DC on Friday night (20 January) were somehow included in the reports about the peaceful marching on Saturday. The Women's March had no violence whatsoever and at no point did I ever feel in any sort of danger. Why the disingenuous reporting?
4. THE NEXT STEPS. What to do going forward? I don't have an answer to that, but I do think the world-wide marching and rallying makes it clear that people don't like the Donald Trump presidency and the working of the Republican Congress. All I know is that we can't stay silent and disengaged any longer. Maybe we borrow tactics from the Tea Party? They certainly went after what they wanted.
Let's try to make a difference in the days and months ahead. Organise, organise, ORGANISE.
Note from Nance: The Women's March website is active and moving ahead with some answers to Jill's question in #4. And Activism remains what it has always been--getting involved, being heard, and making a difference on whatever level you can. Don't let Them get comfortable. This is Not Normal. RESIST.