Women’s March Was ‘Swearing-In for New Generation of Activists’

We stopped only once on the drive down Friday to the Women’s March on Washington DC, at a rest stop filled with people wearing pink pussy hats. Cars sporting homemade “Honk if you’re going to the women’s march” signs in the window caravanned to the nation’s capital and we devised a new car game called “Spot whose going to the march.”

While some officials put the numbers at 500,000, as someone who was at the march, I’d say that number is grossly underestimated. The National Park Service hasn’t provided crowd estimates for gatherings since 1995 when they were threatened with a lawsuit by the organizers of the Million Man March.

According to DC Metro officials, Saturday saw the second highest subway ridership for the day in its 40-year history; the first being President Barack Obama’s first Inauguration on January 20, 2009. (Editor’s note: DC Metro reported Sunday that 1,001,616 trips were taken on the rail system on Jan. 21, the day of the Women’s March on Washington. DC Metro confirmed that the day ranks second behind Jan. 20, 2009, the day of President Barack Obama’s first inauguration.)

By 9 a.m., well before the march scheduled start time of 10 a.m., the streets surrounding the main stage at Independence and 3rd were completely filled. “This is already way more than 200,000,” I said to a march staffer in the press check-in area. She nodded, “Oh yeah.”

“How many do you think? 500,000? More?”

She shrugged and said, “Don’t know yet.”

What was clear was people from across the nation converged on the capital to make their voices heard, for the causes that matter to them.Stephanie Big Crow, from Standing Rock Indian Reservation was there representing the people of Standing Rock and those protesting the Dakota Access pipeline, with a group of fellow indigenous people.

“We are here supporting our sisters and brothers, as well as continuing to bring attention to what is happening in Standing Rock. Water is life.”

In a situation with crowds this size, it’s perhaps most unusual how markedly peaceful the day was. There is no hyperbole when I write that for three hours I was stuck between the CNN truck and the medical tent, unable to move an inch. There were no fights I could see, no snarky comments to fellow marchers. It was remarkable. The only moments of unrest I felt were when the speaker program was extended into the march start time by two hours. Then, the crowd began to chant, “Let’s march now.”

Hindsight being 20/20, I hope the organizers would consider having the bulk of the speakers and performers at the end of the march, if there is to be another.

Saturday felt like more than a march. It served as the swearing-in ceremony of a new generation of activists. A line from June Jordan’s “Poem for South African Women,” printed on one sign sums up the mood of the march best.

“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” it read.

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