In the aftermath of the Women’s March — a worldwide protest in resistance to Donald Trump on Saturday January 21st 2017 that saw an estimated 4.6million people take to the streets in the US alone — The Norwich Radical’s Tara Gulwell and Cadi Cliff put a call out. This article is the product of that call out, which asked for thoughts from those who identified as women and who attended one of the many Women’s Marches on why they marched. These are just some voices, but they speak from across the UK and the US in an act of collaboration, solidarity, and resistance.
After an 8 and a half hour journey and 6 hours spent in Washington DC’s station, myself and a group of 55 others from Clark University in Massachusetts had arrived at the Women’s March on Washington. As a femme-identified person of colour, I had conflicting feelings about attending: I wanted to show solidarity with women and march against policies and a president who will endanger the lives of marginalised people immeasurably, but I also had my reservations due to both the common racial tensions in the US amongst police and protestors, and the overwhelmingly white turnout I had expected.
I was proven right with my expectations for the turnout: in a sea of pink ‘pussy’ hats and banners preoccupied with genitalia equating to womanhood, I was one of a minority of brown faces I observed throughout the day. With the march having been organised by women of colour, and a selection of speakers who represented a diverse range of races, sexualities, classes and religions, I did not feel at ease amongst a fairly White Feminist crowd. Whilst this was an issue myself and other POC who attended have taken issue with, the size of the turnout itself left me in awe: an estimated half a million had turned out to show solidarity against Trump’s policies, and even with ideological differences, there is still a power to be found in numbers.
in a sea of pink ‘pussy’ hats and banners preoccupied with genitalia equating to womanhood, I was one of a minority of brown faces I observed throughout the day
On my second reservation, I was surprised — there was shockingly little police presence to be found. As a person of colour, I felt more at ease at this march than I have at many others due to this lack of police. However, there is no doubt this was due to the march being overwhelmingly white; if this were a Black Lives Matter march in nearby Baltimore, for example, there would inevitably be a visible, active police force targeting protestors. Whilst it is a positive this was not the case here, it certainly makes visible long-standing critiques of institutionalised racism and biases with the US police’s relationship with POC; the racial makeup of a march definitely creates a stark contrast as to how both authorities and the public perceive actions of protest.
The city that won’t bow, don’t know how. Throw a pink boa around your neck and pop open a bottle of champs. “This is how we protest in ‘Nawlins'”, you hear. A brass band mobilises the crowd, they’re playing one of those jazz tunes that relies on quick and dynamic saxophone notes. You realise this is good! This is great, even. It’s comforting, it’s healing, you meet so many girls getting a Protest 101 with this being their first ever act of resistance. Then you see all the signs going up, Pussy Power! Nasty Woman! This Uterus Kills Fascists! And you think about the women you love without uteruses (although you can’t help but love the Guthrie reference). And you remember you were anti-Trump, not pro-Clinton.
you remember you were anti-Trump, not pro-Clinton
You see a group holding up dyke signs, you’ve found your people! But they blend into the sea of white faces along with yourself and most other people here. Damn, who organised this march? A white girl holds up a sign reading “ok ladies now let’s get in formation.” You cringe. The only thing that makes you stop cringing is seeing an antifa flag. You remember why you’re here. You’re here to increase the numbers in the biggest day of protest in US history. You hope that this day leads to more pressure and mobilisation, that it isn’t just posturing and performance, it has to be more than that, right? Yeah, it has to.
Globally, we find ourselves in the midst or a moral crisis. At the Women’s March, I heard the sound of the voices that crisis is trying to stifle, promising that they would not be silenced. Sometimes they shouted about injustice. Sometimes they demanded equality. Sometimes they laughed and sang Fleetwood Mac, or TLC. On the morning of the march, I couldn’t get Pastor Martin Niemöller’s poem First They Came out of my head. It really explains why I marched. Because of community, because of solidarity, because real people are having their basic rights revoked right now. And because I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit quietly as Donald Trump tries to take those rights away.
In the months since last November’s election I’ve felt shocked, disheartened, angry, and powerless. And I have felt the need more than ever before to act– to speak up for my values, to protect those who are targeted by the new U.S. administration, to resist the governance of a man whose politics and rhetoric I find odious, ridiculous, and yes, “deplorable.” And so, on Saturday I was among the half million or so Angelenos who participated in the Women’s March LA.
Having attended previous marches and protests, I thought this would be much the same. I planned to catch the train from West LA and take it east towards Downtown L.A. Apparently everyone in the city had the same idea; the train station was completely packed, as was every train compartment on every train that passed us by. After an hour my friends and I gave up on finding a spot, hitched a ride, and all six of us squeezed into a car.
I have never in my life seen so many people in one place. Once we got to Downtown we followed a sea of pink knitted “pussy” hats and signs towards Pershing Square. The planned route for the march couldn’t accommodate so many people, and LAPD ended up cordoning off the entire neighborhood from traffic as the protest swelled from a planned 80,000 participants to more than half a million. We walked up Grand Avenue past the Museum of Contemporary Art and Walt Disney Hall as we slowly made our way to City Hall.
I have never in my life seen so many people in one place.
Marchers carried signs reading things like “Not My President,” “Pussy Grabs Back,” and “A Woman’s Place is in the Resistance” and chanted along to anti-racist and pro-feminist slogans. At the edge of Grand Park, facing City Hall, hundreds of thousands of Angelenos gathered to show solidarity. Meanwhile, someone in a chartered plane flew past with a banner reading “Congratulations President Trump.” Somehow, rather than angering me, this obvious trolling didn’t rouse any particular feelings in me. I am no longer surprised by the deep divisions of discourse and the shock-jock atmosphere of modern politics. I have learned to save my anger for when it counts.
Several hours later, wandering the streets of downtown trying to find my way back to the car I stumbled across a crowd of people listening to Rufus Wainwright perform his version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Coming across my favorite musician, quite accidentally, in a sea of thousands, brought tears to my eyes. I don’t want to be “hopeful” right now. I think it obscures the reality that a man like Trump signing executive orders will undoubtedly be very bad for a very large percentage of the population. People will die as he unconcernedly dismantles our healthcare, takes away money for public programs, and imposes bans on refugees.
I am no longer surprised by the deep divisions of discourse and the shock-jock atmosphere of modern politics. I have learned to save my anger for when it counts.
My main takeaway from the march was this: it is good to demonstrate support for your values, but this movement is not about one day of protests. It is about daily actions, large and small, taken over the course of years. I don’t want to “hope” right now. I want to act.
The passion and drive to stand up and be heard from a vast variety of women was brilliant, both in the run up and the actual event itself. It was a clear sign against a politics of fear, racism and sexism, saying we like our communities diverse, united and strong. It was an amazing and emotional day, building on Wales’s proud tradition of feminist activism and providing a platform from which we can build
The Women’s March in Boston was larger than I could have even imagined. I had chosen to go to support the women in my life and the young women growing up in this world – to show them that there are people fighting for them, not sitting back and “waiting” for a presidency to be over. This issue started before the president, anyway. I can’t even imagine how I would explain to my future niece that I didn’t attend a march for women’s rights in 2017. 2017! Not 1950, not 1991, but 2017. I had to go, to show myself and this world, that the systemic oppression and objectification of women’s bodies is not allowed. It’s not allowed today, it wasn’t allowed yesterday, and we sure as heck can’t allow it tomorrow.
Editor’s Note | Cadi Cliff
To all of you who took to the streets for women, for diversity, for inclusivity and freedom and hope, and in defence of basic rights — if it was your first protest or your hundredth — keep coming.
When we take to the streets in defence of refugees and migrants, join us. When we take to the streets because black lives matter, join us.When we take to the streets over climate change, join us. When we take to the streets over Syria, LGBTQ+ rights, drone strikes, homelessness, welfare cuts, austerity, planned parenthood, free education, and every damn thing in our world that makes us cry out — join us.
The struggles we face do not live in isolation to one another. The struggles our brothers and sisters face from rising sea levels do not exist in a sphere of their own. Make your feminism intersectional. Make your convictions borderless. Make your protests vibrant. Make your solidarity global. Your voices are needed. If there are 10 of you, if there are 10,000 of you, we need you. We need you to lace up those boots, channel your anger and belief, use your voice, and stand with us.