Participants in the D.C. Women’s March say the experience gave them hope they thought the election had killed
Mathew Shaw | Contributing Writer
WASHINGTON, D.C. — When San Antonio resident Sherry Somers Willome marched in the 1960s for women’s rights and against the Vietnam War, she had thought it would be the last time she had to march.
“I thought we’d made our points,” Somers Wilome said, “that all people were equal.”
Then came 2016 and the election of Donald Trump, and for the first time in nearly 50 years, the 68-year-old retired educator joined other protestors in D.C. to march for the rights she thought had been secured decades ago.
Hundreds of thousands of people swarmed Washington the weekend of Jan. 20-22 — not to attend President Trump’s inauguration, but to protest him.
Estimates vary, but New York Times estimates at least 470,000 people attended the Women’s March in Washington, roughly three times the attendance for Trump’s inauguration.
It was D.C. Metro’s second-busiest day in the city’s history, with more than a million trips taken on the system in a 19-hour time span, according to Washington Post. The city’s busiest day was President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration.
And it wasn’t happening just in D.C.; there were huge marches in major cities around the country and the world — even in Antarctica. More than 2 million protesters marched against the new Trump administration on Saturday, Jan. 21. All because a Hawaiian grandmother posted her frustrations on Facebook the day after the election, 673 rallies occured in a single day, a little more than two months later.
According to the march’s vision statement, the rhetoric of the last election has insulted several demographics of people, from women to Muslims to those who identify as LGBTQIA. Thus, the mission of the march was to protect not just women’s rights but human rights as a whole.
The march began with a rally near the National Mall Saturday morning, which included renowned speakers such as feminist icon Gloria Steinem, civil rights activist Angela Davis, filmmaker Michael Moore, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards and actress America Ferrera. From there, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators marched down 14th Street NW, displaying their multitudes of signs with unique decorations and sayings (some crude rebukes of past statements by Trump). The air rang with chants like, “This is what democracy looks like,” “black lives matter,” and even Beyonce’s “Who Run the World” lyrics.
The march ended — officially — near the White House at 5 p.m. with no arrests made. Protests continued into the evening though, with some people staying outside the White House, others created impromptu monuments to the march by leaving signs and banners at locations around the city, including Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue and Thomas Circle, both within a few blocks of the White House.
It was a movement Somers Willome knew she had to be a part of. “I realize that I am a white, privileged woman,” she said. “I can just sit back and not have to worry about it. But that’s not the way we need to be.”
And, she said, it was beautiful.
“There was no anger,” Somer Willome said, “only smiles and assistance and camaraderie. Not everyone had the same cause on their signs, but everyone appreciated others’ thoughts.”
Making her way through the march with her walker was a silver-haired lady named Barb Carman, who came from Connecticut to protest President Trump and to stand up for the people he has dehumanized. As she marched, she wore a National Center for Lesbian Rights sticker on her coat.
“It was given to me by a person who was distributing them,” Carman said. “And to be honest at that point I had no stickers, no shirts, no nothing.”
Still, Carman had at least one reason to be happy that day: “At the moment, there’s a hell of a lot more people here today than at the inauguration, Which makes me very happy.”
Howard University student Toni-Ann Hines, a gay African-American woman and Jamaican immigrant, came to the march with multiple concerns. Her top three were women’s healthcare, mass deportation of undocumented immigrants and freedom of religion.
“I’m a woman,” Hines said. “Your body, your choice. I’m an immigrant. I was afforded the opportunity to come here legally. If the country is founded on freedom of religion, we should keep it that way. It’s not just freedom of religion for Christians.”
Her other concerns, she said, were LGBTQ rights, police reform, criminal justice and prison reform. She noted that African-mericans and Hispanics are locked up more than anyone else. She also said she wants to marry and have a family as a gay woman.
“I don’t believe anyone should be interfering in that aspect of someone else’s life,” Hines said.
Overall, Hines said she was happy with the march, considering her belief in intersectional, or inclusive, feminism. “I think it’s great,” she said. “I heard chants with ‘Black Lives Matter,’ and that was nice. I believe it’s perfect. I just want it to stay good.”
Dallas resident Athena Trentin also got good feelings from being at the march after feeling disheartened by the election season.
“When I see injustice, it hurts me, it hurts my heart,” Trentin said. “There is this part of me feeling like, okay, it’s going to be okay, because look at all of these people who showed up and all of these marchers all over the world. We do have power in numbers and we can make a difference. That feeling of loss and that disheartened feeling I had is healing.”
Trentin moved to Dallas a couple years ago and is now director of operations for Urban Intertribal Center of Texas, an Indian health and human services operation. She grew up in a small northern Michigan town with an American Indian mother and white father.
“Being in a very racist town, I was very socially aware at a very young age,” she said. “And that made me want to really work to help overcome injustices for everybody, not just myself.”
Being light-skinned and experiencing racism from both sides prompted Trentin to become an exchange student in France during her senior year in high school. “I was able to see another perspective of Americans,” she said. “And it made me realize that there’s so many different ways to look at a situation, and what happens to you in a lifetime and the experiences that you have mold that perspective.”
Learning to accept that people have different perspectives is what the country needs to move forward, she added. “I don’t think we can really become a unified nation, a unified community, a productive community, unless you recognize that everybody comes to a situation with a different perspective,” she said. “And respecting that perspective and learning from it and undertstanding that nothing is wrong, it’s just different.”
Trentin said being at the march, surrounded by like-minded individuals, has given her optimism for the years ahead. “I felt like I was in a healing moment for myself, and for my heart,” she said. “I was renewed.
“I have a renewed sense of outlook and positive feeling about what we can be and what we can become, and this past year isn’t as bad as it felt like, because there’s so many people out there that feel just like me,” Trentin continued. “We will overcome, and we will survive.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 27, 2017.