I have read my entire life about Martin Luther King’s March on Washington, which happened the year I was born. When I first heard about the Women’s March on Washington, I knew it would be just as historic, and that I didn’t want to miss it.
I managed to get a seat on the “Rolling into Washington” tour, operated by Rise Travel, which conducts advocacy and education travel to rallies around the country. Time on the bus went quickly as we listened to workshops with state Rep. Teresa Fedor and former Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy, watched films like Suffragette and She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry about the fight for women’s rights, and got to know our seatmates.
When we got on the metro into downtown DC, I started to get the feeling the march would surpass all expectations. Even at 6 a.m. at the outermost stop, the station was packed. By the time we made our way to the Washington Mall, it too was getting packed.
As more people poured into the mall, it became so full we could barely move. Yet somehow everyone was nice to each other, letting people by one at a time, and pointing out possible stumbling hazards like steps in the sidewalk or tree roots sticking up.
Unfortunately we couldn’t get near the speakers, but at least I saw them on CSPAN when I got home. We did hear the event was so crowded – at least half a million people with some estimates at 1.5 million – that they cancelled the march itself because the route was filled.
Around noon I got hungry and left to find lunch. It took a half hour to get to the Air and Space Museum at the other end of the mall, another half hour to get in, and another half hour in line, but eventually I ate.
I took the opportunity of the journey to get photos of as many signs as I could. The signs were colorful and creative, on all kinds of topics. I was especially heartened to see a lot of signs about the importance of taking care of the climate and environment.
After lunch I found people were marching spontaneously down Pennsylvania Avenue. I turned a corner and found the Old Post Office had been converted into a Trump hotel. Hundreds of people had spontaneously left their signs on the fence in front as calling cards for the new president.
Despite the crowds and confusion, the mood of the march was joyous and resolute. People had come to Washington depressed and in some cases in despair. What they found was hundreds of thousands of others who had the same American values they did, and who were not going to let their values be run over without a fight.
One sign summed it all up: “In this house we believe Black Lives Matter, Women’s Rights are Human Rights, No Human is Illegal, Science is Real, Love is Love, and Kindness is Everything.”
I and lots of others left Washington that night with a new emotion going into the Trump era: Hope in our fellow Americans.
A version of this story appeared in the April 2017 newsletter for Sierra Club Central Ohio Group.
See a set of photos from the Women’s March here:
See a series of videos that I took at the Women’s March here: