Women, thousands and tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands, and more than a million of them worldwide; women of every age, gender affiliation, color, size, shape, nationality and faith. Women on crutches and in wheelchairs, and posing as Statues of Liberty and Blindfolded Justice. A lot of men, as well, and thousands of children. It was a sight that will be pictured in future history books, and it was all good.
Like almost everyone I know, I went to The March. I got there around 7:30 a.m. and met with a group of friends. We munched bagels in the U.S. Capitol offices of Congresswoman Diana DeGette of Colorado. By 9:30, the streets of Capitol Hill were already thronged, even though the official March would not begin until one that afternoon.
There have been descriptions of almost every aspect of The March by better writers than I, but just for the record, here are a few observations.
- According to the District police and US Park Services, NOT A SINGLE PERSON WAS ARRESTED. NOT ONE!! This is beyond amazing; it borders on the miraculous. More than a half-million people gathered in the streets of Washington, D.C., to protest the presidency of a misogynist and xenophobic dullard, and NO ONE WAS ARRESTED. I keep writing this in all caps and bold because I’ve covered many demonstrations for newspapers and magazines, and there are always arrests. Always.
- The police, National Guard, fire departments, EMT and Park Service officers were extraordinary. They were helpful, they smiled, they pointed people in the right direction. In what has to be a one-of moment in the history of protest, demonstrators, learning that it was D.C. Police Officer Allorie Saunders’ birthday, serenaded her twenty-one times and applauded. This is so far beyond the norm of police/demonstrator behavior that once again, I have to use the word ‘miracle.’ By the way, it was widely reported that the Park Service no longer gives out official crowd counts of demonstrations. This is true. But I spoke to two Park Service officers who told me they had estimated the day’s crowd at more than 600,000. One added that she thought the attendance at Trump’s inauguration the day before was less than 100,000.
- The oft-maligned Metro system also rose to the occasion with trains that ran seamlessly and helpful employees guiding riders through the turnstiles without a hitch.
- Ahmed’s Kabobs food truck did landmark business. A long line of customers waited patiently to buy ten-dollar skewers of chicken on beds of white rice. Ahmed gave away a bottle of water with every order. His wife and three sons were manning the grill. Ahmed is an immigrant from Libya. He got to the States four years ago and loves it here. No one opposed his presence.
- At one point, I was immobilized by the crush of people. This was the sort of situation that causes anxiety attacks, and an older woman next to me began to panic, yell and thrash. Three of us extricated her from the crowd. It took ten minutes of pushing forward from the center of the throng near the Air and Space museum to its edge on the other side of Independence Avenue. When we reached the sidewalk of the HEW building, word had gotten there of a medical emergency, and two EMTs took the woman and led her to an ambulance. I never spoke to the other two marchers involved in this small incident. One was a very large black man who led the way through the crowd shouting, “Coming through, excuse me, thank you, coming through!” and the other was a small woman who held the panic-stricken older woman’s hand as we threaded through the crowd.
- I witnessed two acts I would term reprehensible. The first occurred when a large black Cadillac SUV tried to push through the crowd on a side street. A masked demonstrator ran up to the vehicle and showered it with what I think was talcum powder. The SUV’s windows were tinted, and the rumor was that Trump was in the car. I sort of doubt it. Later, as I walked back to the Smithsonian Metro Station, I spotted a small group of men, one of whom was wearing a Trump-emblazoned American flag like a cape. This was interesting and I followed them. They were not belligerent or aggressive. People ignored them until one long-haired demonstrator grabbed the flag and tried to wrest it from its wearer. A mêlée ensued with a couple of inefficient swings thrown. A woman rushed in and got between the two demonstrators. I grabbed the long-haired one and pulled him away (no bravery was involved on my part; the assailant, who was very short and weighed maybe 90 pounds, did not resist) and that was that.
- I was struck by the scarcity of people of color among the demonstrators. Many of the ones there had Black Lives Matter signs. There were also sign-carriers promoting scientific research and a cleaner environment, organic veggies, better education, Obamacare, and the imminent Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
- Trump’s only positive accomplishment so far, it seems, is legitimizing the word ‘pussy.’ The Washington Post wrote about pussy hats, and it was sort of disconcerting to see a ten-year-old girl with a ‘Don’t Touch My Pussy’ placard. A few signs merely said, ‘Don’t Be a Dick,’ though they didn’t specify to whom this warning was addressed.
All in all, it was a glorious day.