The Women’s March on Washington in DC on Saturday, January 21, offered a stark contrast to president Donald Trump’s inauguration the day before. Inauguration attendees on the National Mall calmly witnessed President Trump’s pledges to end the “American carnage” of job outsourcing from free trade, poverty, illegal immigration, and drug abuse. Blocks away black-clad antifascist protesters violently smashed storefront windows. Police responded with flashbangs and pepper spray, and a limousine went up in flames, billowing black smoke outside the offices of The Washington Post.
The next day, the mood flipped. The Women’s March on Washington—an idea started on Facebook by a woman in Hawaii—drew an estimated half a million people to National Mall and the surrounding streets, with thousands more attending sister marches in cities in almost every state in America and around the globe. The DC Metro system was quickly overwhelmed early in the day by whooping, festive protesters decked out in pink pussyhats and signs rejecting and denouncing the misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and climate change denialism associated with the Trump administration. The crowds literally filled up the planned march route to the White House. Estimates indicate up to three times the number of attendees at the march compared to the inauguration.
Core march organizers had centered their messaging on intersectionality, highlighting the discrimination faced by women of color, by transgender women, by undocumented immigrant women, while reproductive rights predominated on protest signs.
Most of all, it was a show of solidarity and a therapeutic rejection of the divisive values that the Trump administration has championed. Despite the sheer size of the crowds, the atmosphere was jovial and compassionate; protesters sang, chanted, danced, sat in silent protest, ate, and helped families with strollers and small children, the elderly, and people in wheelchairs navigate the crowded mall as speakers ranging from Angela Davis to Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards rallied from a nearby stage. As a middle-aged Muslim woman who had travelled from Maryland to attend put it: “We really needed this.” —Josh Kelety