Never, ever, ever have I been around so many people. The sheer volume was staggering. From the moment we stepped away from the bus, we were surrounded. Even though I knew lots of friends attending the march, I didn’t see a familiar face—aside from those in our group of seven—the entire day.
When we left the stadium lot where the bus dropped us—two miles from the start of the march—the sidewalks were already full. We were immediately swept up in the ever-swelling stream of bodies that eventually, and rather suddenly, ground to a halt in a roiling sea of pink.
By the time we arrived, the rally had started. (We had made a bathroom stop which involved a loooong line.) Unfortunately, but not unsurprisingly, the crush of bodies carried us to a dead-end spot behind the stage. It took us a good long while to work our way around to the right side and then we couldn’t even get close enough to hear the speeches, let alone see anything.
So we kept moving, inching our way down a parallel (and full) street, block after block, trying to find an entry point. Finally we found a spot where we could hear (but not see any of the big screens), and for the next couple hours we listened to speakers Michael Moore, Ashley Judd, Scarlett Johannson, Van Jones, 6-year-old Sophia Cruz, etc.
After the pain of standing became too much (standing still hurts), we started working our way through the crowd, trying to get to the place the march would be. Passing the big screens, we’d catch glimpses of speakers, Angela Davis, Madonna, Maxwell.
We shuffled along like a pack of emperor penguins, each person with her hand hooked into the hood of the woman in front of her. Sometimes the press was so great that we moved only a fraction of an inch with each step, and sometimes we couldn’t even take steps. I’d look around me, at the thousands of people hemming me in on all sides and do my best not to think about stampedes and mass shootings and trucks driving into crowds. My fretful husband had begged us to be safe. Don’t worry, hon, I’d told him. I’ll stay at the edge of the crowd. That I thought there’d be such a thing as an edge—ha!
An hour and a half after the march was scheduled to start, it finally got underway. The few times the crowd thinned out enough that we could actually stride (because mostly we did the penguin shuffle), it felt so, so good. There were chants of all sorts, but my favorite was the random group yell. From several blocks away, we’d hear the roar begin. We’d wait, listening as it moved closer and closer, and then, as it washed over us, we’d throw back our heads and join in the collective, wordless howl of pent-up rage and hope, frustration and joy. Group therapy at its finest.
Things we saw:
*A hippie drum circle.
*Mountains of hay, for the police horses, running the length of a block. We only ever saw three horse, though.
*Almost no police.
*Signs, sign, and more signs. SO MUCH CREATIVITY.
*Random hell-and-damnation preachers with their black-and-white signs sporting words like “whoredom” surrounded by dancing protestors chanting “Love, love, love!”
*An enormous model of the world creeping down the street.
*People on stop-light posts, on walls, in trees, on ledges…
*(Few and far between) porta-potty cities.
The march over, we started the long walk from the White House to our bus. Along the way we passed churches with their doors open, a woman standing outside her door with a pitcher of water ready to refill our bottles, a large sign on fence proclaiming in masking-tape letters THANK YOU.
I arrived back at the bus dehydrated, hungry, and hurting all over. I inhaled my ham-and-mustard sandwich, carrots, figs and dates, cheese and crackers, and chocolate and then promptly fell sound asleep, waking only when the bus trundled into town.
At home—glorious home with TWO bathrooms and NO lines—I chugged water and chattered nonstop. My husband filled us in on the media reports (they said they had called off the march?!), and we skimmed through my hundreds of photos.
What a day. What an inspiring, entertaining, grueling, exhilarating, and profoundly moving day.
I am so glad I went.
This same time, years previous: lemon cream cake, and so it begins, the quotidian (1.19.15), the good and the bad, and multigrain bread.
Thanks for going and for sharing your experience.
Apettis in Oregon
It is too bad many marchers DIDN'T bother to take their trashy signs and garbage with then when they left. Instead they left it in piles on benches or sidewalks for someone else to clean up.
Actually, I was pretty amazed at how NOT trashy everything was. Considering the staggering number of people and that this was the second big event in two days, the city looked pretty spiffy. Trash cans over-flowed, sure, but marchers, for the most part, seemed to stack their trash into tidy piles close by.
Thank you (and allllll the others) for going. It feels so going knowing I am, we are, not alone in this fear of what will become. Even in the Netherlands we had a march. We have to let them know, see and understand the right way!!!! Thanks 😉
We went to the rally in Kansas City, and it was wonderful! I left feeling exhausted but energized at the same time!
My sister, my daughter, and I were there as well. It was an experience I'll never forget. Such an amazing energy. So much hope. So much emotion. I will always be glad to have waited 3 hours at a metro station to attend the march.
Thanks for sharing Jen! I'm so glad you went. I'm also thankful for this great report of your day – it gives those of us who didn't attend a bit of that group therapy we all need right now. Thank you.
Like others, I've been waiting for your post. It has given me such hope that there are men and women willing to peacefully protest. Not only here, but world wide. Silence is interpreted as acquiescence. Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your experience!!
I am so glad I went too! I saw that giant earth as well – I'm wondering if the sheer size of that thing made it easier to navigate through the crowds? It must have, although it sounds like we weren't really that far from each other. Just had a few hundred thousand folks between us. And yes, standing still HURTS. Even the teenagers in our crew admitted to feeling that pain. Totally, absolutely worth it though. I think the best part is that my faith in humanity and my fellow Americans is fully restored.
You and Becaboo and Kate (marched in Phila) are my heroines. Thank you.
ccr in MA
You are so right, just standing still hurts! I was at the March in Boston, and it was amazing and inspiring and overwhelming and ow. But it was great to see how many of us there were. It's only the first step, but it's a big one.
Thank you both for attending. I really appreciate the post and being able to attend vicariously through you all. These marches have been amazing, and it is hard to put into words the emotions that come with seeing so many different people come together for something like this.
I had been waiting on your report. It was a fantastic thing that you did! Thank you so much for supporting all women and people who strive for peace, love and equality! You did a great thing!
Millions more at home were supporting all of you! Thank you for sharing your experience!
I marched in my city. My grown children and their spouses and their children marched in cities in three different states. Thank you for taking part in this historic day.
Lucy Bryan Malenke
What a joy to march with you, fellow lady soldier for justice! (Also, if I could get that picture of my fist-pump, I'd be much obliged.)