Sunday, January 22, 2017

Million Women March

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So many thoughts are running through my head the day after the Million Women March. As I type, I am tired and wondering what my next step should be. I'd like to first reflect on what yesterday meant to me.

The March began because the day after the election a woman from Hawaii said she was upset and wanted to do something. She posted the day after the election she and a few of her friends were going to fly to DC to march. The idea behind the march was not to be a "protest" but to show the new President we are here and we are watching his moves. 

That one post on November 9 grew into 673 sister marches AROUND THE WORLD, with estimates ranging from 210,000 in DC (the official number released by the police department, but having been there, I feel is really low) to 500,000 on the Mall (which I did not reach) to 1.2 million if you include everyone trying to get on the Mall in DC alone. 

My friends turned out globally to be seen and to be heard. I did a FaceBook survey and made notes on FB posts, so the numbers could be much larger. I had friends marching in Washington, DC; Topeka, Kansas; Lansing Michigan; Trenton, NJ; Boston; Denver, CO; Philadelphia; New York City; Chicago; San Jose, California; Seattle; Ohio; Australia; and England. That's just me and my representation of over 600 FB friends (many of whom don't post). In the words of our new President, this was YUUUGGEE!

Early numbers I have seen say 20,000 in Phoenix, 500,000 in NYC, 6,000 in Trenton, over 100,000 in Boston (planned for 25,000), and 30 in Antarctica (researchers already there, but wanted all seven continents represented). Early numbers said 2 million globally, but if 1.2 million were in DC alone, that number is probably much higher. I heard Los Angeles had 500,000 and that Chicago was the second largest march in the United States. I heard there were more people marching for rights in the USA yesterday than marched against BREXIT (read on the BBC website). 

HERE is a link to a spreadsheet a friend of a friend created to show the various counts.

Some pictures. I don't agree with all of the signs, but as I opted to carry a camera and not a sign, I won't criticize. I'll let the day unfold via photos.

Our bus of 55 people --mostly women, mostly all with pussy hats, signs, food, and encouragement.

Wishing I wore my hat into the first rest stop.
I did at the last one, and heard someone else say she wished she was wearing hers.
At the wee hours of Saturday morning, I-95 was a caravan of buses. The first rest stop was packed, so we skipped ahead to the second one (the Chesapeake House) where the women outnumbered the men by about a 1:100 ratio. We commandeered the men's room (with the permission of the rest stop employees). Everyone was polite and energized, even for such an early hour. We found out later though we tried to rush, we were there about an hour (vs. 17 minutes for the much emptier rest stop on the way home).

 From here we hit a traffic jam as we crossed the Susquehanna River. There were buses broken down, unfortunately one of the the three busloads I was with broke down on the highway due to a loose radiator cap. Kudos to Starr Tours for having a repairman only 10 minutes away from us in Maryland who could get the bus back on their way.

Our first impression of the event was that it was very well organized. Parking at RFK Stadium at 10:25 AM was easy. Heidi, our organizer, pre-reserved our parking. There were plenty of empty port-o-pots and lots of cheerful volunteers. As we walked the two miles to the march crowds were flowing. As we got closer to the mall we found out the stage from the day before was still set up (it was supposed to be down by then).
We were diverted to Independence Avenue, a move from which we were not able to recover. Barbara, my buddy for the day, was trying to meet up with her sister, Katie. Cell phone service was spotty. Turns out Katie's phone was on its last bit of battery life when we finally met up with each other. 

Pictures from the March:

Heidi and her mom Carleen. Heidi organized our Hopewell group.

Some signs referencing Hamilton quotes.


I made it! Didn't make it to the front.

Bet they walked in that order all day long.

Perhaps my favorite!

This was about as close to the Mall as I got. We stood in front of the Department of Education at 6th and Independence for nearly an hour waiting for the actual March to begin. We could see the Jumbo-tron, but could only catch a few words here and there. The mood was a little tired, after all most people had traveled quite a distance to get there, yet also festive. we were near food trucks. The lines for the bathrooms were very, very long. At 1:38 a general chant of "March! March! March! March!" went out. Enough of standing, time to start moving. Unfortunately it is really hard to get up to 1.2 million people out to start walking at the exact same time.

Out of the mouths of babes (her mom encouraged us to take her picture)

After and hour of standing around we moved closer to the Mall. The first street we turned down we were told as only for medical needs, not to get to the Mall (though we could see it). The second street (where this was taken) was also blocked off. People started marching in the opposite direction just to move. We could see the buildings, but we couldn't get there. Others were telling us they heard the "march" part of the March was cancelled because there were way too many people to fit. I can believe that.

When Barbara and I started the day we knew we would need to allow at least an hour to get back to the bus by 3:50. We signed waivers saying if we were late, the bus would leave without us at 4. Kate and her husband, Kent, offered to drive her sister home because Barbara had to preach the next morning. They had room in their car for me. It was good to have a back up plan, but that would have been a huge inconvenience for Kate and Kent. By 2:30 we realized the march wasn't happening. We were in front of a building where Kent worked. He knew there was a subway station across the street. As we crossed that street I saw this band of people marching. I really wanted to join them, but I also knew it was safest for me to stick with my buddy. Barbara was ready to meditate on the day and prepare herself for preaching in the morning. We had no idea even with the subway how long would it take to return to the bus (mind you, we were told earlier taking the subway to the start would be an hour, and others had told me similar tales of woe with mass transit from that day). We timed it right, and made it to our subway stop in 15 minutes. We even had empty forward facing seats for the ride. 

Before boarding the subway, I saw this sign:

Thank you to the women of Hawaii for starting this incredible movement. I am glad I can always say I was there.

The mood was calm and peaceful. Women vastly outnumbered men 100:1 (look, it is a total guess on my part). The atmosphere reminded me of when I do women's only (or womencentric) races. Sure we bumped into each other and stepped on toes (it was very crowded) but people apologized and made sure the other person was okay. The sea of pink hats was amazing! Someone tried to equate Trump supports' red "Make America Great" hats to the pink pussy hats. The big difference is the red hats were made in China and were sold. The pink hats were lovingly made by women and distributed for free.

Back at the bus I spoke with some of the others. Many had similar experiences to ours -- as much as they tried they could not get to the Mall, and wanted to be back on time. Some did make the Mall (yes, I am so jealous!) and also made it to the bus an hour after us (still on time as we were over an hour early to the bus). They also walked back, which I wish I had felt I could do, but was afraid of not making it back in time after swimming upstream for two miles.

Heidi did an awesome job organizing the day. She prepared goody bags for us with pins from Penzey's Spice, homemade breakfast bars, hand and foot warmers (thankfully not needed), extra pussy hats (gratefully accepted and worn), and a Ghiradelli dark chocolate square that was much appreciated on the ride home.

The big question is now that we have acknowledged there is a problem, what can we do about it? I've started by signing online petitions. My next step will be to call my representatives to both tell them how I hope they will vote (they are not mind readers) and to THANK them for the times they have voted the way I want them to. I've met Bonnie Watson Coleman, so instead of calling a stranger, I'll feel as if I am calling a friend.

One final thought, one of the participants said "Today feels like the beginning and not the end."

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