By Charlotte Hollingsworth
Estimates from Saturday's rain soaked women’s march in San Francisco, California, say that approximately 150,000 people attended the rally and protest. I was one of them. Across the country, it is being reported that some 2.9 million people gathered in approximately 673 cities, and protests were held around the globe with marchers reporting in from London, Sydney, Cape Town, and even Antarctica. The historic turnout is one of, if not the, largest group protest in the history of the United States.
As I walked down Market Street last night, I kept running out of ways to express myself besides just sighing “I fucking love women.” Joyous, peaceful, strong, there wasn’t a single arrest in San Francisco or Oakland, in fact as much as I’ve been scouring the news cycle not a single report of violence from these marches has come forward. More people than ever before gathered in cities and towns, some of which had never had a protest in their history, and everyone stayed peaceful.
At the end of the march, which coalesced in front of the ferry building at the end of Market Street, I joked with my friends that I hoped the whole thing would spontaneously erupt in a huge dance party. And then it did. Women dancing in the rain elatedly shouting slogans of power while people played whatever instruments they had on them. I have never felt so supported in my life.
There were moments I didn’t like. At one point a woman with a bullhorn started a chant in Spanish. I watched the eyes of the Latina women light up as the struggled to hear what she was saying and join in. A circle formed around her of women of color chanting in Spanish, and I was so happy for the diversity of the march, until the larger, louder group of white women started a chant right next to them in English that quickly drowned them out. Speaking over the voices of women of color is not progress and is exactly why the feminist movement gets accused, rightly so, of being racist. I won’t start in on my issues with the white guy who showed up to play the digeridoo but, needless to say, I found it distasteful.
The age diversity of the crowd was remarkable. Women who had marched in the 60’s and 70’s showed up in the rain with their daughters and granddaughters, and watching little girls exposed to the laughter and happiness of a crowd of women was amazing. I want every girl to grow up knowing what a supportive and boisterous group she is part of.
Ok, and can I get back to Antarctica for a second? They marched in ANTARCTICA. Literally every continent was represented. It is illegal to march without insane amounts of permitting in Russia so women just took casual strolls wearing t-shirts with feminist slogans and shared their totally not planned casual walks on social media. There were marches in tiny towns in Alaska, villages in Africa, and support flowed in from social media all day long. If we could count the number of people who were unable to attend but shared their support online, I’d bet we easily reached 5 million participants.
Saturday’s march in San Francisco was especially important because it took place after a pre-planned anti-abortion demonstration that had already booked the UN Plaza in front of City Hall to protest on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. We took to the streets later than most of the country and just as the rain was beginning to fall. And we took back our civic space from people who wanted our rights to be abolished. The satisfaction of knowing there were exponentially more of us made me happy, so happy.
I just took a second to look at Trumps response to the marches and I laughed out loud. “Why didn’t these people vote?” he says. I would like to point out to him that we did, in fact, vote in record numbers, and not for him. 2.9 million people in your country gather to proclaim their distaste with you and your reaction is to ignore them again. More than 2.9 million people voted against you, kid, and we aren’t going to let you ignore that.
I love this country. Right now, when it’s seemingly at its worst, I love it more than I ever have. Saturday was a call to action and we got up and answered it. And it doesn’t stop now. There are multiple organizations, including the organizers of the Women’s March that are providing daily prompts on concrete actions you can take to continue the work we talked about Saturday. My recommendations are to support nonprofits wherever you can, especially the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, spend money on art by seeing local theater, comedy, and buying direct from artists either in your area or on Etsy and other online retailers that work directly with artists, and be outrageously kind. But don’t be quiet. And when some Nazi starts talking on national TV, go ahead and give them a punch right in the mouth.
The mood at the rally was angry, but jubilant. It was loud and fierce and supportive and positive and everyone was smiling, singing, whooping at the rain as it fell in bursts. The whole thing was amazing. I am excited to tell people I was there.
The hard part is going to be what comes next, when showing up means contacting your representatives and attending local government meetings. I’m sore from walking all day but I know that was easy compared to the individual action I must keep taking. But for right now I am going to bask in the joy of what we did. Imagine if even half of the people who attended marches on Saturday sent letters to their representatives. That is a thrilling thought, and completely possible. Keep taking back your civic spaces and participating in your democracy. We can do this.