Participating in Women's March on Washington teaches Buffalo teen about the power of solidarity - The Buffalo News
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Participating in Women's March on Washington teaches Buffalo teen about the power of solidarity

Everywhere I looked there were people. The sheer magnitude of it was staggering. It was more people than I ever have, and likely ever will see, in my life; all like-minded, passionate individuals, willing to stand in solidarity for hours to make sure their voices did not go unheard.

Our alarm went off at 6 a.m., but it did not feel like an ordinary day. The day before, Inauguration Day, I traveled with some of the other women in my family to Washington, D.C., to take part in the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21. We drove 386 miles, three generations packed into the car, all to be there, supporting one another, representing the majority that did not support the president.

The morning of the march, we boarded the subway at the first possible stop, on the red line just north of the city. The platform was crowded with women wearing pink hats and holding signs sporting slogans like "I’ve seen better cabinets at Ikea" and "Keep your tiny hands off my healthcare."

We were lucky to get a seat once we were on the subway. The trains, which usually arrive every 11 minutes on an average Saturday, were arriving every four minutes to accommodate the crowds. At each stop, a flood of people would rush into the train car, until it was unnecessary to hold onto a pole for stability since it everyone was so tightly packed.

Upon arriving at Judiciary Square station, people spewed out into the streets, engulfing the vendors selling Women’s March T-shirts and pink hats.

At that point it was just 8:30 a.m., an hour and a half before the scheduled programming of the rally would begin. Our group meandered toward the march starting point, the intersection of Independence and Third streets.

As we crossed toward the mall, banks of portable toilets came into view, not yet hauled away after the inauguration. We quickly discovered that all the toilets were locked, in what seemed to be an attempt to prevent marchers from accessing them. This struck me as a new low, that those in power would seek to lock out women seeking equal opportunity and civil rights … and access to the toilets. (These particular toilets were emblazoned with the slogan "Don’s Johns!" an irony not lost on my compatriots.)

Continuing toward the mall, we stopped to take pictures in front of the Capitol building, (finally finding open toilets) and then joined the hordes of people making their way to the rally.

After being told that Third and Fourth streets were closed due to overcrowding, we situated ourselves on Seventh Street, adjacent to the National Air and Space Museum, and within reasonable viewing distance of one of the many jumbotrons. By this time it was 9:30 a.m., and the crowd around us was thickening.

Actress America Ferrera kicked off the rally at around 10:10 a.m., followed by Ashley Judd, Scarlett Johansson, Gloria Steinem, Michael Moore, Janelle Monae, Alicia Keys, Madonna, and countless civil rights figures.

The rally was scheduled to conclude at 1:15 p.m., and after nearly four hours of standing still, the crowd was ready to march. But, as it crept closer and closer to 1:15, it became apparent that the scheduled programming was not nearly finished and the crowd was so immense that the march route was packed, leaving nowhere to go once the rally ended.

My group decided to scope out an alternate route, or at least find some breathing room. We navigated our way through nearly three blocks of crowds before we stopped clutching one another’s coats in an effort to stay together.

As we made our way down Seventh, many women asked us where we were going, to which we responded that the march route was rumored to be full, and we were trying to find some open space to assess our options. Many women around us also turned around.

By the time we reached the mall heading north, the women trying to break from the crowd, if only momentarily, had become the crowd, the mass, the march.

Once the crowds on the side streets dispersed, all elements of organization were lost. From then on, there were people wherever you turned. People joked that it was a "feminist take-over" of D.C., but in all seriousness, it didn’t resemble anything else.

We had intentions of seeing the White House, but thousands of others (the crowd numbered very nearly a quarter of a million people) had the same idea. Realizing the impossibility of visiting 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we redirected to the Washington Monument, favoring it for the views of the National Mall, Lincoln Memorial, and the distant White House.

It was when we stood atop the hill and admired the unobstructed views of our nation’s capital, that I realized I was far from alone.

Being a young female Democrat in this political climate is difficult, but I was not alone, and neither were the immigrants who fear America had turned their backs on them, the women who depend on Planned Parenthood, the LGBT+ community struggling to find acceptance and equality, and the African-American community who feel threatened by the law enforcement of this country. Yes, it was called the Women’s March on Washington, but no, it was not only about women’s rights. It was about human rights.

The Women’s March, which had spread to hundreds of cities across the world, was a massive success.

It would be easy to feel satisfied after participating in an event of such magnitude, but we can’t. Already, the new administration has enacted 13 executive orders after only 10 days in office.

To combat these orders, the Women’s March movement is releasing 10 actions to be completed over the 100 days following Inauguration Day.

The first action urges citizens to send postcards to their senators on the issues that concern them.

And Michael Moore the phone number for Congress, (202) 225-3121.

John Locke upheld the idea that government should be at the "consent of the governed." If you do not consent to a new policy in government, let your opinion be known. Call or write to a senator, congressman, or local government representative, and execute your democratic rights.

Valerie Wales is a sophomore at City Honors School.

 

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