I know I’m pretty slow in posting my own experiences with the Women’s March on Washington. With so many other people spending the past week writing their own experiences with the march on various blogs, websites, and social media, I felt like I could take the luxury of delaying my own report. (Besides, this blog is NOT a news site.)
This post has only my own personal experience with this march. It will include my opinions based on what I saw. It’s possible that you may disagree with my perceptions based on what I saw and did at that march. That’s fine. I’m only writing this to add to what has already been posted about this march. I’m hoping that one day in some distant future some historian will read what other people have posted online, including this post, to gain insight as to what happened and write some kind of a definitive account of this march.
Here is my account of what I saw and did at the Women’s March on Washington on January 21, 2017. It was a very dreary cloudy day, which is reflected in all of the pictures I took of the march that day. The ground was wet because it has been raining off and on for the past few days (including President Trump’s Inauguration the day before). Despite the gloomy clouds, it didn’t rain once. I was still glad I brought my folding chair because it was too wet and muddy to sit on the ground.
Participants were encouraged to wear knitted pink pussycat hats. I didn’t have one and I really didn’t want to knit a hat on such short notice because knitting can be such a time-consuming effort. (That whole march was announced just a month or two before.) I ended up wearing my Grumpy Cat hat that I originally purchased at Party City for $10 for a Halloween Party that took place at my church back in 2015.
I had a number of people praise my hat, including a Metro security guard, which was pretty cool. One little girl at the march who admired my hat told me that she has recently gotten Grumpy Cat: A Grumpy Book that she loves very much.
I drove to the nearest Metro station on my own because I live pretty close to that station. I originally met up with some people from my Unitarian Universalist church congregation outside the Greenbelt Metro station at 7:40 a.m. (which was the agreed meeting time in advance).
Even that early in the morning it was pretty crowded. I later learned from other people via Facebook that by the afternoon one had to wait up to two hours in order to enter the Greenbelt Metro station.
We all boarded the Metro. The train we were on was pretty full. I saw two of the women sitting underneath this ad that was pretty appropriate given where we were headed.
Once we arrived at the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station I got separated from my church friends because of the crowd of people, as you can see in the next few photographs.
I eventually went over to the Department of Health & Human Services building because people from my church decided to march with the larger Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice (UUSJ) they were all meeting there.
So I caught up with my friends again. But that reunion was short-lived once the UUSJ started marching because I was separated from them again because of the throng of people and I didn’t see them again for the rest of the time that I was at the march.
I managed to make it to the Mall. At first it was pretty roomy and I was able to set up my folding chair so I could rest in it and eat my lunch (which I brought with me because I know from previous experience that the food vendors tend to draw long lines at large events like this). I set up on the perimeter of the Mall just across the street from the Native American Museum. I folded up my chair after lunch because I needed to use the Don’s Johns port-a-pottle that was set up on the Mall for both yesterday’s Inauguration and today’s Women’s March. I went in this long line just so I can relieve myself.
After the bathroom break I walked around some more and snapped some pictures. I noticed that the Mall was filling up with more and more people while I was walking in the center of the Mall. For the record, I didn’t see or hear any of the people making speeches because I was so far back on the Mall. (The stage was set up closer to the Washington Monument and I was mostly at the end that is closer to the U.S. Capitol Building.) There were so many people that there was no way I could even think about making my way closer to the stage. I saw a jumbotron at one point but that was crowded with people as well and it was partly obscured with trees so I wasn’t able to see or hear anything.
I became so tired of walking that I decided to go back to the perimeter near the Native American Museum in an effort to open my portable folding chair again and sit down. Except I found myself trapped among the crowds that I literally could not go in any direction. I was stuck like this for at least an hour or more. I later saw this video that the British TV station Channel 4 had posted on its Twitter feed giving an overhead shot showing how packed the Mall became that day.
I learned through the rumor mill that people were busy speaking on stage and all the speeches ran overtime so the march to the White House didn’t even begin at its originally scheduled 1 p.m. time. People were pushing and crowding in all directions and I was afraid that there would be a disaster similar to what happened in the U.K. nearly 30 years ago when people at a soccer match were literally crushed to death. People near me kept on chanting “LET US MARCH!” and “LESS TALK, MORE WALK!” to no avail. It was almost like the people on stage were the 1% and the people being crammed like sardines on the grounds of the Mall were the 99% and the 1% could’ve cared less about the safety of us 99% plebes.
At one point a person near me literally fell to the ground and other people managed to lift him up back on his feet. If it weren’t for these helpful people, there’s a chance that this guy would’ve been trampled and crushed to death. It was literally so harrowing at times that I kept on thinking that if I had fallen down to the ground, I might as well say good-bye to this life because I would’ve been crushed and trampled to death.
The only other time I’ve ever seen the Mall get this crowded was at the 2010 Rally to Restore Sanity and March to Restore Fear that was put on jointly by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Except that rally had areas around the perimeter of the Mall where people who got tired of being crushed by the crowds on the Mall could walk towards the edges and take a breather. The Women’s March didn’t even have that convenience because I saw the perimeter across Independence Avenue being just as crowded as on the Mall itself.
Eventually it filtered down that the organizers on stage had decided to start marching to the White House. Hordes of people began to quickly empty out of the Mall. Once again there were empty spaces on the Mall so I decided to pull out my portable folding chair and rest again. I was exhausted as hell. I decided against following the crowd to the White House, look for the nearest Metro station, and just go home.
By that point both my smartphone and the back-up battery recharger had both run out of power so my smartphone was dead. I tried to retrace where I had walked until I found a sign pointing the way to the Federal Center Southwest Metro station. On my way to that Metro station I walked along a section of sidewalk near the Department of Health & Human Services Building that had the giant cobblestones instead of the usual smooth sidewalk. I literally tripped an landed on my knees. Some helpful bystanders helped me get back on my feet and asked me if I was okay. The good news was that I was still able to walk. The bad news was that I ended up with a bruised and stiff right knee. (My left knee somehow escaped being unscathed.) I spent Saturday night at home applying a heating pad to my knee until bedtime when I put on one of my compressing kneepads. This is what my right knee looked like the following morning.
Once I made it back to Maryland, I drove away from the Greenbelt Metro station parking lot and I noticed a lot of people walking outside of the parking lot. I saw the cars parked at a nearby business park and an apartment complex, which was reminiscent of the 2010 Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rally when I also saw cars parked at a distance from the Metro parking lot. I decided to drive to Three Brothers Pizza in Beltway Plaza where I order two slices of cheese pizza and a medium Diet Pepsi to go. I really wasn’t in the mood to cook anything for myself after spending a full day that that march. At least I was still able to walk despite my injured knee (which became stiff and sore) and the food line was relatively short so it was no big deal.
As I look back on this, I have to admit that I’m of two minds about my participation in the Women’s March on Washington. On the one hand, I thought it was great that I took part in something that literally broke all previous records for other marches and rallies. For years I had to deal with elders both in my church and in my neighborhood talking about how they took part in the 1963 March on Washington (where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech) and I envied them because my parents didn’t go and, if they had, I would’ve been way too young to remember. So the next time I hear an elder talk about hearing MLK give his “I Have a Dream” speech in person, I can reply, “Well, that’s nothing compared to going to the 2017 Women’s March on Washington and being among the throngs of people who broke all attendance records for a large political rally of its type.” (And that’s not to mention that the Women’s March took place just five days after the MLK holiday.)
I was thrilled to see the comparison pictures between the Women’s March and the Inauguration that was held on the Mall the day before and seeing that the protesters definitely outnumbered the Inauguration attendees. I heard that President Donald Trump’s thin-skinned ego received a serious blow over that fact. He deserves it for the way he ran his campaign where he catered only to white heterosexual Christian men with no disabilities at the expense of everyone else. In a way, it was worth it for me to take the time to do something that probably has seriously hurt The Donald’s feelings and if I had to endure being packed in like sardines on the Mall and suffering a bruised right knee as a result, well so be it. I’d rather suffer with a stiff knee than have The Donald’s thin skin and fragile ego that results in him frequently making an ass of himself on Twitter.
It was super cool finding out hours later after I was back home that this particular march was one of many marches that were literally held all over the world and many of those marches (particularly ones held in places like Boston, Chicago, London, and Paris) were just a huge as the one in DC.
On the other hand, it was harrowing as hell given the throngs of people who literally crammed into the Mall like sardines. It was a miracle that no one got crushed to death. I wished the organizers had been more flexible and practical in cutting the stage presentations short so people can march sooner and clear out the Mall. I know that famous people spoke on stage and doing something like this would’ve bruised a few celebrity egos. But I’d rather see bruised celebrity egos than risk innocent people getting crushed and trampled to death on the Mall.
I’ve read some of the progressive criticisms of the march online saying that it was organized mainly to highlight the concerns of upper class white heterosexual women who supported Hillary Clinton for president. I saw plenty of people wearing Clinton campaign buttons and t-shirts. I even saw a couple of people schlepping life-sized cardboard standees of Hillary Clinton. I found it interesting to note that Bernie Sanders not only attended the march in his home state of Vermont but he also spoke that that march as well while his one-time Democratic primary rival, Hillary Clinton, was nowhere to be found at any of the women’s marches anywhere in the world.
But the majority of protesters I saw did not indicate their support of Clinton at all. I saw people wearing Bernie Sanders buttons and t-shirts. I saw people holding “Black Lives Matter” and “Trans Lives Matter” signs. I saw Muslim women and Latinos holding signs indicating their fear of increasing anti-Islamic and anti-Latino sentiment coming from the Trump Administration. I even saw the occasional “We are the 99%” slogan that originated from the Occupy Wall Street movement.
While the march in DC was overwhelmingly white, I saw plenty of people of color who also marched as well as people who didn’t support Clinton or Trump at all. I know the march wasn’t perfect. I personally would’ve preferred more speeches made by non-celebrity activists representing ordinary everyday Americans and less speeches made by Hollywood celebrities because this march was supposed to represent the interests of everyday ordinary Americans who lack the wealth and privilege that the Hollywood celebrities enjoy. But you’re never going to get 100% perfection out of anything in this life and I have to admit that this march seemed very promising in that it hinted of the potential rise of a genuine alternative opposition movement against the Trump Administration. Whether that potential gets realized won’t be known until later this year.
The next day I actually watched videos of the speeches that I found on YouTube. Every speech I watched were inspiring and powerful. I’m only sorry that I wasn’t able to hear any of it on the Mall when I was actually there. I am glad that YouTube exists so I can hear these speeches in their entirety without having them be edited by some broadcast network news organization.
At this point only time will tell whether this march will have a long-term impact on average people in the U.S. I hope something good comes of this. Otherwise I will feel frustrated that I spent a huge amount of time being nearly crushed to death on the Mall while suffering with a bruised knee for nothing.