• A protester, holding a Donald Trump doll wearing a pink cap, marches in Washington, DC, during the Womens March on January 21, 2017. (AFP/Getty)
Washington D.C’s Women’s March was in stark contrast to Donald Trump’s Inauguration. Writer, Scarlett Harris, tells all from the frontline of both events.
By
Scarlett Harris

23 Jan 2017 - 1:08 PM  UPDATED 23 Jan 2017 - 1:08 PM

When I originally booked my trip to Washington D.C. for the presidential inauguration on 20th January, I envisioned Hillary Clinton marching down Pennsylvania Avenue, her elation mirrored by mine and the hundreds of thousands of others gathered to witness the swearing in of America’s first female president.

Instead, I witnessed an equally historic event the following day, when an estimated 500,000 women and allies marched in the nation’s capital to protest the inauguration of a different president, Donald Trump.

I tossed up whether to change my travel plans in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 election result – one which I believe was of a fascist demagogue to the highest office in the land – but decided to stay on in Washington as the Women’s March took form in the following days and weeks.

Judging by the turn out, this influenced lot of others to make the pilgrimage to D.C. to protest for their rights, too.

“I want, one day, for a grandmother to give her granddaughter her pussy hat and tell her that I was there on January 21st, 2017.”

Not without its problems, the Women’s March took pains to diversify its leadership and was still revising the mission statement in relation to reproductive rights, sex worker solidarity and disability visibility in the days preceding Saturday’s protest.

In a marriage of some of the problems facing the Women’s March—an arguably too-populous schedule of speakers and performers, capitalism and cissexism—protesters kept warm in a sea of pink pussy hats while we became increasingly antsy in the winter Washington weather (though comparatively warm for that time of year #climatechangeisreal).

I spoke to the prodigy behind the pink pussy hats, Krista Suh (29), from Los Angeles, who wanted the hats to be “a tangible reminder after today that we have to stand up for women’s rights each and every day”.

“I want women to wear these hats to the grocery store and for other people to see it and to know that there’s a women’s rights supporter there,” Suh tells SBS.

“I want, one day, for a grandmother to give her granddaughter her pussy hat and tell her that I was there on January 21st, 2017.”

Whatever the Women’s March’s issues, they didn’t prevent far more people attending than did Trump’s inauguration the day prior. Social media and news outlets weren’t exaggerating: public transport usage was at a 12-year low, and from my perspective, many of those lining the parade route and in some cases preventing access at checkpoints (which may have influenced turnout) were protesters.

Compare that with the at least 275,000 who travelled on the D.C. Metro to Saturday’s protest (not including the 1,500 buses registered to park in the city, those who drove or flew, and the sister marches across the world).

Reports of violent protesters on inauguration day were vastly over-exaggerated, though, but the anger was palpable in contrast to the optimism of the following day’s events.

Despite the dread and sadness that I, and much of the rest of America felt in the wake of the election result, seeing the turnout in support of women’s and human rights was heartening. 

Make no mistake, Women’s Marchers were pissed, but we expressed our dissatisfaction with witty chants, such as “we need a leader, not a creepy tweeter”, and signs that played on Trump’s (alleged) propensity for sexually assaulting women, because if you don’t laugh, you cry.

Despite the dread and sadness that I, and much of the rest of America felt in the wake of the election result, seeing the turnout in support of women’s and human rights was heartening.

Even Trump supporters approached his presidency with (misguided, in my opinion) optimism rather than the vengeance often attributed to them and certainly stoked by Trump.

Mary Muller, 58, a project manager from South Carolina, was hopeful that the new president would “help improve the country for the less fortunate so that it becomes a better place,” while Robert Raab, 41, from Texas, who works in banking and ministry, said that he “had to pick one of two and [Trump] identified more with my optimism than the other side.”

Conversely, idealism has often been a trait associated with progressive movements, as we saw in Bernie Sanders and Clinton’s campaigns and, of course, outgoing President Barack Obama’s “hope” iconography (which was recreated by artist Shepard Fairey especially for the Women’s March) in 2008. Indeed, former First Lady Michelle Obama asked in her final interview with Oprah, “what else do you have if you don’t have hope?”

With this in mind, I asked marchers what they hoped would eventuate from the resistance. Alexandra, 24, a student from Miami, wanted people to be “united and willing to make changes” and her mum, Ambaro, 56, originally from Venezuela, anticipated that the protest would create awareness and give hope to “people who feel that they’re alone [to know] that they’re not.” Evelyn, five, from Maryland, hoped that marching with her family would “make the world a better place.”

If young people like Evelyn, Alexandra, and the scores of others who marched on Washington and around the world to let legislators know that we won’t easily let our rights be taken from us are any indication, I think we can make the world –not great again, as Trump ended his first presidential address with and ran on the platform of – but great for everyone. Finally.

 

Scarlett Harris is a freelance writer musing about femin- and other -isms.

Love this author? Read previously published work at The Scarlett Woman and follow her on Twitter here.

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