Reflections on the Women's March on Washington PDF Print E-mail
We The People - We The People
Written by Jerri Dell   
Tuesday, 31 January 2017 21:26

Jerri etcLess than a week after Donald Trump was elected as President of the United States, I was organizing to go with fifty Western Marylanders on a bus from Cumberland to join the Women’s Woman on Washington, D.C. Having grown up in D.C. in the 1960’s,  I knew something about protesting.  I was a in elementary school when Martin Luther King had a Dream and spoke at the Lincoln Memorial;  I one of so many college students who protested the War in Vietnam on the National Mall.  I was the granddaughter of suffragists who linked arms with thousands like them to demand the vote for women. It was time to protest again, and I was eager to be there. . . .Until I wasn’t. 

 

As the day of the March got closer – and the horror of a Trump presidency became all the more real—I thought.  Really?  Why do I want to spend hours on a bus, then into the throngs of people in the Metro, brave the misery of Washington January?  What difference would make anyway?  Perhaps I could get a cold bad enough to keep me home or slip on the ice and bruise my shin too badly to walk.  And what about the dogs?  Who would feed the dogs?  Better to continue  media blackout – no TV, no Yahoo, no Facebook. Why march with the multitudes and force myself to face it.  Up until the night of the inauguration I still wavered. Why March? Shameful as it is, on Saturday morning I climbed up on that bus because I promised my friends I would be there.  In fact, it was me who encouraged my friends to do go.  It was me who registered us all for the March and  got our Metro One-Day Passes online.  I was the one who had sixty “Resist” buttons made to give to everyone on the bus to Washington. It was just too embarrassing not to show up

 

After a quiet companionable trip to D.C. on the bus from Cumberland with 54 other people – most of whom I didn’t know personally - we arrived just after 9 at the Shady Grove Metro station where the line of people waiting to get on the train snaked all the way up the hill and moved as slowly as molasses in the winter time.  But it was a friendly crowd and there were plenty of port-a-johns and it wasn’t cold or raining.We were a cheerful, orderly group getting into the Metro.  Nobody rushed; nobody pushed. Since Shady Grove was the first beginning of the Red Line, all of us to got to sit down.  Having agreed on a buddy system before we left, Krystyna and Doris and I were a triad. Sitting in front of us on the train was a pretty, pale, slender girl of maybe twenty-two, short black hair, tattoo on the back of her neck. As Krystyna and I spoke in worried voices about cell service and whether we’d be able to contact people at the march, the girl turned around, smiled shyly at us and said “There’s an app” that lets you communicate with people without service.”  Krystyna, Doris and I busily tried to find the app.

 

“I have severe anxiety,” said the girl, “so I like to prepare for everything.  I have all kinds of Plans B and C and D.  You know, there’s even an upside to anxiety!” I reached in to my bag and gave her one of the few “Resist” buttons still left once everyone on the Cumberland bus had taken theirs. The girl was from Boston and alone and anxious, but a stranger gave her a “Resist” button. A very good omen, she said. As we piled out of the train, her eyes darted right and left, she took a deep breath, smiled and disappeared into the crowd. I felt better already.

 

March4From Union Station we strolled toward the Capitol. There were a lot of people, sure.  Mothers, some with babies attached.  Teenagers with tattoos and pink and purple hair.  Fathers with little boys throwing Frisbees.  Gay couples holding hands. Grandmothers carrying signs, smiling.  Me, Krystyna and Doris kept up fine. We walked, down sidewalks, across grass, around fences left over from the day before, and with every step the crowd got a little larger. On our way to the rally – where apparently Gloria Steinem was speaking, we heard whoops and hollers.  The crowd swelled and we couldn’t see the stage. There were swarms of us everywhere packed in as tight as the proverbial sardines. We passed a women’s drum circle, then a Native American dance.  Now a few more thousand packed in closer. Moving – just slightly—first one way, then another – “Dead end” a group said, so we all turned around, continued back to where we’d been.  – “It’s blocked,” a group said, we turned around again.  A circular sort of march. March 3

 

When it was clear we would never see Gloria Steinem or Scarlett Johansson or John Kerry, even from a distance, Krystyna and Doris and I worked our way slowly toward Independence Avenue, turned right at 7th Street and then cut across the mall.  The huge crowd spread, took over the streets, the grass, even the trees where people could get an aerial view of things. Of course the best part was the sign “Kids 4 Kindness”, “Fight Like a Girl” “Dissent is Patriotic” “You Can’t Comb Over Racism!”, “Nasty Women seeking Bad Hombres”, “Flaky liberals are getting you Healthcare!” “My Undocumented Father Paid More Taxes Than Trump!” “Free Melania!--We’ve all had bad boyfriends!”, “Politically Correct and Proud of It!”  My spirits soared.PART 1485041355058

 

At noon we stopped at the Hirschhorn Museum where there were walls to lean against, eat our sandwiches and use a clean restroom. In need of a restroom, I got in line with the others. When I saw everyone hold up their hands to show the guard they were carrying nothing dangerous, I shoved my colorful “Anti sexism, racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia” poster under my left arm and held my hands up too. “You’ve got to drop the poster,” the guard said.  I let Krystyna go in the museum alone. No way I was dropping my poster.

 

Doris, Krystyna and I marched on the national mall in sight of the Washington monument, past the National Gallery of Art and the Museum of Natural History. I’d done this a hundred times as a kid – either with my parents or with friends on a school trip—but this was different.  Now I was doing it with hundreds of thousands of Americans I didn’t know, mostly women.  And everywhere we went, people were kind; the marchers were kind. When someone stumbled there were a dozen people right away helping to get them back on their feet. The volunteers in neon orange jackets were kind and the police on foot, on bicycles and in police cars were all kind. People danced and chanted.  But mostly people looked around at all the thousands and thousands of other people, and smiled.  A few hours into the march – our numbers had increased a hundred fold since we left Union Station – a small group of women with shaved heads and nose-rings called out “Tell Me What Democracy Is!” and thousands of us – as far as the eye could see - shouted our response “THIS is what democracy is!”

 

And it was. 

 

Photos by Jerri Dell and Beau Hartman

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