Women Marched on Washington, with the World in Lock Step | chelseanow.com

Women Marched on Washington, with the World in Lock Step

Hands were joined together and women were in lock step at the Women’s March on Washington. Photo by Donna Aceto.

Hands were joined together and women were in lock step at the Women’s March on Washington. Photo by Donna Aceto.

BY EILEEN STUKANE | United just as much by their commitment to peace and equality as their disdain for the bigotry and misogyny of Donald J. Trump, they arrived in far greater numbers than predicted. Shoulder to shoulder with barely an inch of air between them, everyone was smiling: Women with their babies cradled in wraps, women with toddlers, pregnant women, mothers with their teen and adult daughters, women of color, of diverse sexuality, and females from a few months old to over 80 were joined by concerned gay, straight, and transgender men, fathers, husbands, brothers, sons, and citizens from across the country.

Saturday, January 21: This was the Women’s March on Washington.

Washington, DC: Marchers pass the West Building of the National Gallery of Art. Photo by Donna Aceto.

Washington, DC: Marchers pass the West Building of the National Gallery of Art. Photo by Donna Aceto.

In this sea of homemade pink “pussyhats” (worn in reference to Trump’s sordid 2005 boast that he could grab a woman’s genitals whenever he may choose), here were the people making their voices heard — 500,00 of them in DC alone.

Creative signs shouted out support of equal rights for all. “This Is Only The Beginning,” read the sign Kristen Rogers wore as she directed the crowds as part of the organizing crew. An attorney, she traveled from California because she said, “It’s more important than ever that people band together and truly participate in our democratic process. What we’ve seen in the discourse of this past election cycle needs to be addressed head-on consistently in the next four years.” She then added, “In two years we have midterm elections, and it’s critical that we have incredible turnout among Democrats and progressives so we can affect the redistricting cycle.”

Even though there were Women’s Marches of (an estimated) almost 3 million people all over the world — in her speech in DC, Gloria Steinem announced 370 Marches in every state and across six continents — many thousands of people traveled to what they considered the heart of the movement in Washington, DC.

On a bus from New York City to the DC area on Jan. 20, the day before the March, women explained their dedication and drive. Anne Beaty from Connecticut unfolded a banner that read “Nasty Women Revolt,” and said that she was meeting a friend traveling from Paris who would be marching with her. Smith College graduates Alex Trinkoff, from Long Island, and her daughter Kyra Schor, who lives in Brooklyn, had long shared feminist views. “I have felt extremely vulnerable since the election,” said Kyra. “I’m sick of feeling not valued. I want my voice to be heard. My mother has been taking me to feminist rallies since I was a baby. It feels as if things have gotten worse.”

L to R: Kyra Schor and her mother Alex Trinkoff, just before they took a bus from NYC to DC. Like many mother/daughter duos at the March, they were separated by a generation but linked in their present-day views.

L to R: Kyra Schor and her mother Alex Trinkoff, just before they took a bus from NYC to DC. Like many mother/daughter duos at the March, they were separated by a generation but linked in their present-day views.

“I’m walking for my daughter,” Alex noted. “What I say and what I do matters. We have to stand against rhetoric that incites violence and promote the love quotient.”

Through the chilly, gray mist, the mood of the DC marchers was sunny throughout the day. Ann Grant, a public defender from Massachusetts whose infant daughter, Vivian, was wrapped tightly to her chest, said of her child, “It’s important that she start her civic duty early,” and added, “This presidency is going to require a lot of dissent and a lot of action by the people to demonstrate that they don’t approve of his creeping autocracy.”

Ann Grant, a public defender in Massachusetts, felt it was time for her infant daughter Vivian to begin doing her civic duty. Vivian's poster says it all. Photo by David Puchkoff.

Ann Grant, a public defender in Massachusetts, felt it was time for her infant daughter Vivian to begin doing her civic duty. Vivian’s poster says it all. Photo by David Puchkoff.

She held high a sign that read: “There’s More To Protest Than I Can Fit On My Sign.”

Also in the crowd: a group of five activists, several from the group Women of Green, who had driven 1,800 miles from New Mexico to DC. Their sign encouraged everyone to “Meditate, Listen, Organize, Dance, and Make America Beautiful Again.” Tess Young, a dancer, personal trainer, and member of the New Mexico contingent, said that she was “born and raised in Korea, so I know when you have a country with a bad leader, the country is really in trouble. I’m here to participate.”

Greg Newcomb, who works in advertising and graphic design, lives in DC with his husband. “We’re a gay couple. We believe in human rights. We are supporters of equality for everyone. We have a lot of women in our lives; strong, powerful women that we are here to support. I’ve said to friends, ‘I came out of a vagina so I believe in supporting those who gave us life.’ ”

Accalia Frey, age 17, pictured with her mother Jody, isn't old enough to vote but that did not stop her from speaking out in support of Hillary. Photo by David Puchkoff.

Accalia Frey, age 17, pictured with her mother Jody, isn’t old enough to vote but that did not stop her from speaking out in support of Hillary. Photo by David Puchkoff.

The future manifested itself via young marchers like Accalia Frey, a 17-year-old freshman at Hofstra College, who worked behind the scenes at the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. “I’m not really happy with this president, so I wanted to be able to come here and express my views,” she said. She was too young to vote, but the election has motivated her to study political science as a minor in college.

FROM THE PODIUM

Most inspiring was the camaraderie of the like-minded marchers on the ground, who finally felt some release, and were grateful to have an outlet for speaking out against the resistance to climate change, anti-immigration and isolationist talk, racism, the squelching of freedom of the press and equal rights, and threats to women’s reproductive rights. If there had been no speakers, it would still have been an inspiring day (hundreds of thousands of citizens representing themselves!). Among the over 40 speakers nd over 20 performers, some rallied the crowd more than others. Those who were situated close to the speakers, or those, myself among them, who could see speakers and performers projected on the jumbo screen, drew energy from them.

Gloria Steinem rallied the crowd early on with: “Sometimes we must put our bodies where our beliefs are… Trump and his handlers have found a fox for every chicken coop in Washington. A Twitter finger must not become a trigger finger… This is the upside of the downside. The Constitution begins with ‘We the people.’… If you cannot control your body from the skin in, you cannot control it from the skin out, you cannot control your lives, our lives, and that means the right to decide whether and if to give birth without government interference.”

Creative messages included Lady Liberty warning that there is nowhere else to go — so let’s get to work. Photo by Ellen Black.

Creative messages included Lady Liberty warning that there is nowhere else to go — so let’s get to work. Photo by Ellen Black.

Scarlett Johansson made an impassioned speech in support of Planned Parenthood and spoke of the difference it had made in her life when, at age 15, she could seek guidance and care from the organization. She also spoke of how she was at the March in support of her daughter, “who may actually — as a result of the appointments you [Trump] have made — grow up in a country that is moving backwards, not forwards, and who potentially may not have the right to make choices for her body and her future that your daughter Ivanka has been privileged to have.”

The US Senators Kirsten Gillibrand from New York, Tammy Duckworth from Illinois, and Kamala Harris from California brought a bit of female Washington to the day.

“This is about our country,” said Senator Duckworth. “I didn’t shed blood to defend this nation — I didn’t give up literal parts of my body — to have the Constitution trampled on. I did not serve along with men and women in our armed forces to have them roll back our rights.”

The future was also represented in the form of a heart-melting speech by six-year-old Sophie Cruz, who was joined onstage by her undocumented parents. “Let us fight with love, faith and courage so that our families will not be destroyed,” she said. “I also want to tell the children not to be afraid, because we are not alone. There are still many people that have their hearts filled with love.” Sophie spoke in English, then repeated the same words in Spanish, and ultimately led a call to action that filled the air with hundreds of thousands of voices: “Si se puede!” or “Yes we can!”

Among other familiar names who took to the stage were Michael Moore, America Ferrera, Angela Davis, Ashley Judd, Van Jones, Janelle Monae, Maxwell, Alicia Keys, Toshi Reagon, and the co-chairs of the March: Bob Bland, Carmen Perez, Linda Sarsour, and Tamika Mallory. The on-stage agenda, which was scheduled to end at 1 p.m., lasted far longer, and by 2:30 p.m. the crowd wanted to start moving. A chant of “march, march” rose up from the ground. However the March’s planned route became impossible to navigate due to the solid humanity, which left not an inch available for movement.

The organizers suggested that marchers take an alternate route headed toward the Ellipse. So march we did, as best we could. Friends and family held onto each other — I, with my husband David Puchkoff and my sister Ellen Black. The density of the crowd surprised and delighted everyone. The Women’s March is now being considered the biggest nonviolent demonstration in history.

The sheer volume of marchers forced a departure from the planned route. Photo by Donna Aceto.

The sheer volume of marchers forced a departure from the planned route. Photo by Donna Aceto.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

As Kristen Rogers’ sign noted, “This Is Only The Beginning.” As energizing as the March was, the crowd was counseled to organize in their communities, to stay connected, to contact elected officials about issues of injustice, and to run for office themselves. Senator Gillibrand called the day, “the moment when the women’s movement started again.”

Kristen Rogers traveled from California to let the world know that a movement was being born. Photo by David Puchkoff.

Kristen Rogers traveled from California to let the world know that a movement was being born. Photo by David Puchkoff.

It’s also important to remember the power of public demonstration. In 1913, 5,000 women marched up to Pennsylvania Ave. to advocate for women’s suffrage. In 1920, women received the right to vote. In 1963, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was held. Over 200,000 people gathered to hear Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech for justice and equality. In 1964 the Civil Rights Act was passed. The Moratorium March on Washington to protest the Vietnam War took place in 1969 with over 500,000 people joining together. The Vietnam War ended in 1975.

The Women’s March has ignited a hopefulness from the despair of the presidential election. Voices raised on that day, whether for the first time or as part of a lifelong commitment to women’s rights, will not be subverted or silenced. Change takes time — but it happens.

Of the thousands of signs seen at the March, this one offered a simple three-point plan. Photo by Donna Aceto.

Of the thousands of signs seen at the March, this one offered a simple three-point plan. Photo by Donna Aceto.

In the early morning of Jan. 21, marchers exited the DC Metro in staggering numbers. Photo by David Puchkoff.

In the early morning of Jan. 21, marchers exited the DC Metro in staggering numbers. Photo by David Puchkoff.

Signs, such as this reminder of Warsaw, warned of the dark path the nation cold take under President Trump. Photo by Donna Aceto.

Signs, such as this reminder of Warsaw, warned of the dark path the nation cold take under President Trump. Photo by Donna Aceto.

This group of activists drove 1,800 miles from New Mexico to participate in the Women's March in Washington, DC. Photo by David Puchkoff.

This group of activists drove 1,800 miles from New Mexico to participate in the Women’s March in Washington, DC. Photo by David Puchkoff.