We left our hotel at 9:30 am, with excitement in our hearts but little idea of what the day would look like. The only indicator of the potential magnitude was the fact that both my friend with whom I was marching and my flights to Washington, D.C. (and all the others we heard of that day) were packed with women. There might have been five or ten men on my flight, but well over a hundred women. And every flight we heard of heading to the nation’s capital that day was the same.
Nonetheless, when I landed in D.C. and checked the news on my phone, I was not feeling so great. It sounded as though the Inauguration had not struck a unifying tone, and already the White House website had scrubbed all reference to climate change, Civil Rights, and LGBTQ rights. I was feeling low.
But the next morning, we were ready to march. It felt good to be doing something with our outrage. It felt good to be planning to come together with women from around the country to say that love and diversity and kindness and reproductive rights and immigrants and religious freedom and inclusion matter.
As we walked, we met women from all over the country. There were women, and men and children (a surprising number of men and children!) of every background and ethnicity. There were people in wheelchairs, children in strollers. There were speakers that addressed what seemed like a thousand different interests and backgrounds. There were rousing speeches. There was music. There was a sea of hot pink “pussy hats” with cat ears.
There were so many incredible handmade signs. The creativity and humor and love were all palpable.
And it was so peaceful. With hundreds of thousands of people, little room to move, hours on our feet, and there was no strife. Not one argument. Not one scuffle. I remember seeing only three police officers. The ones I saw were just sitting in their patrol cars. There were no arrests.
The crowd was so huge that we couldn’t see where it began and where it ended. It snaked around corners, and our phones weren’t working, so we couldn’t even tell how big it was (though we could tell it was huge). We were excited to get back to our hotel to see the images. To see exactly how big the crowd we were part of was.
As we marched, the crowd chanted “We will not go away, Welcome to your first day!” and “This is what democracy looks like!”
It was so inspiring to be part of this enormous crowd, united and diverse. It felt so energetic, yet calm. So passionate, yet so peaceful.
We stopped, briefly, on the ellipse, with the White House in front of us. We stayed only a few minutes because we’d been on our feet for nearly seven hours, with nothing to drink, and no desire to make use of the porta-potties. We rejoined the marchers and made our way back to our hotel.
Only then, reunited with wifi, did we see the pictures. The size of the crowd. The photographs from similar marches around the world. Scores of people joining forces to show what we stand for; what we will never stand for.
The feeling of knowing that there are this many people united to support women, people of color, disabled people, immigrants, reproductive rights, and environmental justice gives me so much hope. For months, I have been feeling saddened by the election and grateful to live in such a solidly blue area. But it’s not just San Franciscans who feel this way. Or Californians.
There are millions of people around the world who were willing to take to the streets for these goals.
We are not alone. In fact, we are more powerful than I ever could have dreamed. Though numbers are still coming in, political scientists say this may be the largest day of demonstrations in American history. It stuns me just to type that.
There are questions about where the marchers will go next. What will come of these protests? It is too early to say, but I am confident that our work is not done. But the hope and solidarity that became evident yesterday will live in my heart for a long time to come. It will sustain me through what are sure to be challenging times.
I am also confident that yesterday was the just the beginning of something monumental.