Commentary: An Eyewitness Account of the National Women’s March
As soon as the Women’s March on Washington was announced for the day following Donald Trump’s inauguration, a journalist friend and I decided we wanted to be among those gathering. We’re alarmed about the direction of our country. It’s no secret that the Republican Party is already taking steps to undo not only President Obama’s legacy achievements, but progressive actions that have sustained Americans since the era of President Franklin Roosevelt.
I’m gratified that more than a million women, men and children from all races and religions came out Saturday to D.C. or the “sister marches” held in the U.S. and around the world. For us, the new reality is here. Non-Trump supporters fear losing rights and protections under a leader who does not share our progressive values.
I took one of three Rally buses from Detroit to Washington. Assembling Friday night outside the MGM Grand Casino, the riders — primarily women — were invited to take their choice of a free pink knit hat from a box. Since the election, women everywhere had joined a project started in L.A. to hand-knit hats, for both practical and symbolic reasons. Besides keeping heads warm in late January, the so-called “pussy hats” also show opposition to Trump and his brags about grabbing women’s genitalia.
We left at 8:30. The bus was comfortable with plush seats and outlets to charge cellular devices. But it was a bus, after all, and traveling two nights under such conditions was grueling. We stopped for breaks in the middle of the night, requiring everyone to get off and wait in long restroom lines. The bus lurched and jerked while we tried to sleep or use the tiny bathroom. I didn’t sleep much on Friday night, and only sheer exhaustion brought me some “zzzzs” on Saturday. One of my best choices was bringing a walking stick with folding chair — when I could find space to set it up.
Rows and rows of buses from all of the country were parked at RFK Stadium. We walked to the Metro station a few blocks away. Riding the escalator to the top, I occasionally joined the high-pitched screams washing through the cavernous space. It was as if to announce to Washington: “The Women Are Here. We Are Not Afraid!”
I got off downtown as others did. The sea of people, most wearing pussy hats, was wonderful to behold. After making minimal advances through the crowd, I learned that the stage area had been filled since 6 a.m. My bus arrived at 8. Then I tried moving toward the Air and Space Museum. Jammed! Everywhere was jammed. I moved myself to a point where I could “sort of” see a Jumbotron screen blocked by tree branches. At the time, women’s icon Gloria Steinem was speaking. I heard Katy Perry, Cher, Madonna and America Ferrara were other celebrities scheduled to speak.
People spent hour after hour trying to go with the flow one way or the other. Chaos, but the good kind. I always heard “excuse me” or “sorry” if someone was bumped, and helping hands pulled up anyone wanting to try a vantage point at a higher level. For most of the day, though, I didn’t mind the human gridlock because of the sheer excitement of being among others just as worried and fired up as myself. So much energy and passion was assembled in that one place, all of us together — demanding a better world. “This Is What Democracy Looks Like!”
For most of the day, the main entertainment was looking at people’s handmade poster signs. The most enjoyable used humor to get their points across. Being a women’s march, reproductive rights were highlighted. I saw “Rosaries Don’t Touch My Ovaries” and “No Uterus. No Opinion,” because women want control over their own bodies.
Disparaging Trump was a continuing theme, as in: “You Can’t Comb Over Injustice.” During the official march, a chant often heard went: “We Need a Leader, Not a Creepy Tweeter.”
The D.C. police were kind to us and we gave them no trouble, even when officials judged there were too many to be allowed near the White House. People marched instead on the National Mall and along the Trump inaugural parade route that still had stands for viewing. I saw a huge replica of “We the People” with long signed “sheets” attached, carried along Constitution Avenue by anyone interested.
People! People in pink hats. It was inspiring. It was history. But the resistance to Trump is just beginning.
Women at the march, and others there in spirit, are saying in interviews that they will run for office or recruit candidates, register new voters and contact representatives in Congress to vote “no” on wrong-minded, hard-hearted policies. If these efforts succeed, historians one day will view the Women’s March on Washington as a turning point in restoring American democracy.
JN Contributing Writer Esther Allweiss Ingber is a Democratic precinct delegate in Oak Park, member of the Oakland County Democratic Party Executive Committee and board member of the Oak Park-Huntington Woods Democratic Club.