One Woman's Experience at the March in Washington D.C.

One Woman's Experience at the March in Washington D.C.

I went to my first protest this weekend, for Washington's Women's March, and this is what I saw.

I went to my first protest this weekend, for Washington's Women's March, and this is what I saw.

Text: Cara Hessels

As the daughter of the first certified female underwater welder in the New York City Dock Builders Union, the issue of women's rights is one I hold close to my heart. My mother is not unfamiliar with activism. Growing up she marched against the Vietnam War and for a woman's right to choose; she even petitioned (successfully) to have her high school dress code changed so that girls could wear jeans to school rather than skirts or dresses. So, when I first heard about the Women's March in Washington D.C., I knew what I had to do.

I'll admit, having never truly joined a protest before, I wasn't sure what to expect. After Friday's Inauguration was followed almost immediately by violent rioting that left 230 people facing felony charges, I didn't know what the city or its crowds would look like, but there was no choice—I was going. Prepped with signs, snacks, and a solid "GIRL POWER" playlist, my best friend and I made the trek from NYC to Washington. What welcomed us was what I should have expected all along: an overwhelming feeling of support and passion, and a sea of pink pussyhats.

The energy at the March was palpable in a way no picture or phrase could do justice, as we all vibrated off one another—nervous, excited, ready. People of all ages, sizes, races, religions, and genders, from all states, cities, and walks of life were represented in the crowd, which was also laced with celebrities. Posters boasting messages of encouragement, cries for help, sheer disapproval, and vagina puns aplenty were held high. Strangers helped each other take pictures, hand out water, flyers, free hugs. Able-bodied protesters both physically and figuratively lifted up those around them, especially into trees and onto lampposts for better views of the rally.

The rally heard speakers from women's rights icon Gloria Steinem, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, patron diva Madonna, actress Ashley Judd, Scarlett Johansson, Janelle Monae, director Michael Moore and more, with a performance by Alicia Keys. “Sometimes, we must put our bodies where our beliefs are,” said Steinem. “This is the upside of the downside.”

As the rally wrapped, organizers were actually forced to reroute the March due to the sheer volume of people in attendance. Crowds consumed the entire path of the original March. “This was something we didn’t plan for,” stated Janaye Ingram, one of the event’s organizers. “But it was part of the amazing experience and exceeded expectations.”

Protesters then took it upon themselves to march their own route, mine taking me from the Capitol to the White House.

Chants rang out in every direction as we made our way to the White House. A few fan-favorites included, “You can’t build a wall, your hands are too small,” “We want a leader, not a creepy Tweeter,” “Donald Trump, go away. Racist, sexist, anti-gay,” “My body, my choice,” “Women’s rights are human rights.” And as a rogue Trump supporter screamed, “Donald Trump loves you!” from a balcony, a collective group of marchers immediately began shouting, “Your hat was made in China!” in response. This chant spread like wildfire, providing some comic relief amongst the crowd.

For the first time since November 8, I felt hopeful for the future. Suddenly, things weren’t as scary as they once seemed. If hundreds of thousands of like-minded people (which we would later learn became millions) could band together in one positive, united voice on the same day in cities around the globe, what couldn’t we do? I finally felt back in control of what happens next and the days to come didn’t look so dark.

*It is also important I note that not a single protester was arrested that day, a stark juxtaposition to the day prior.

Now, remember: “It’s a movement, not a moment.” Tomorrow is equally if not more important than the protest itself, and therefore I urge you to join the Women’s March in their latest campaign, 10 Actions / 100 Days, which will address issues on a local, state, and national level.

Ultimately, over four million people in 600 cities worldwide showed up on Saturday in the name of change, love, and equality. This is what democracy looks like. This is what hope looks like. This is what America looks like. We are colorful; we are loud; we are proud, and we’re not going anywhere. So, I guess all I have left to say is, thank you, President Trump. Thank you for uniting me with an extended family I never knew existed but somehow always believed in. You’ll be hearing from us again soon.

XO,

Cara

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