The only sign of the GOP at the yugely attended Women’s March on Washington was a drawing of the party mascot inside of a uterus: “We need to talk about the elephant in our womb,” read the words underneath. Not far was a large white placard on which was written the lyrics of children’s rhyme: “Roses Are Read / Tacos Are Enjoyable / Don’t Blame a Mexican / Because You’re Unemployable.” There was no lack of wit at the march, which took place a day after the presidential inauguration of Donald J. Trump. That occasion had been an unnerving display of absolutism, zealotry, and chaos. Time will tell if it goes down as one of the darkest days in American history. I could take heart only in its dismal attendance.
By contrast, the Women’s March, which had grown from a Facebook post idea into an international phenomenon, was a spectacular and uplifting show of solidarity, or to use a phrase from Trump’s inauguration speech: “[They] came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before.” The two gatherings could not have been more different: Unlike Trump’s blanched supporters and their sheltered dogma, the Women’s March was a dynamic display of gender, religion, creed, and cause. Glueing it all together was a comprehensive feeling of tolerance–that is, except for Donald J. Trump. He was the man of the hour, though perhaps not in the way he would have liked his press secretary to declare. Standing in the marching line beside me were white sisters from Middleton, Virginia, dressed in identical periwinkle jackets and Burberry hats that were tacked with bronze pins from the National Foxhound Association. “We just have the same tastes,” they told me. “And we both dislike Trump.”
It had taken nearly two hours to get from Huntington Station to the street corner of 12th and Independence, a journey that should normally take no longer than 25 minutes. People were in a vivacious mood; not exactly joyous, but happy to be among a ubiquitous feeling of solidarity. I overheard a little girl ask her mother where they were going. “On a march, dear,” she replied. The girl seemed confused. “But where is that?” Another woman interjected, “to where all girls become best friends.”
This feeling didn’t cease even as we packed in like sardines for the march. “I’m so happy to be here,” a professor from George Washington University told me. “But I’m also a hellavalotta angry. Hopefully this helps.” The crowd anxiously waited for cues from the traffic controllers positioned along the periphery. We could hear various speeches and music from a jumbotron turned away from us. “That was Janelle Monaé” texted my wife, sick at home. Then my signal dropped, my network unable to host the sheer number of people condensed into one location.
When the march did commence, it was not in a single organized line, but in an all-out omnipresence. From 15th and Constitution, the corner of the National Mall, on which sits the new Museum of the African American, I could see protesters pouring out of every every street between the Capitol and the the White House and filling the corridors that connected them. It was nearly 4 pm, and according to a tweet by the Washington Metro, over half a million people had converged upon the city. There had been a planned march, but by then, the authorities had been overwhelmed. For a single moment, the people held the city. That they did it with such peace felt substantial.
Among the hundreds of thousands to participate was my mother, a non-confrontational and lifelong Republican; her Latina features and panda earmuffs might have indicated otherwise, but the “Colin Powell For President 1996” was a dead giveaway. I had never marched with my mother. We disagree politically, but we today we stood together, not in a protest, but in protest, a general discomfort with the the direction our country’s future would taken. “Can you believe I’m here?” she said. I shook my head. “Neither can I!”
She headed off to find a metro stop, so I made my way to the White House solo. Along the way I encountered a woman leading a participatory singalong of “This Land Is Your Land.” Then there were contingents from the “Muslim Women of America Association.” An interracial couple carrying a sign that read “We are on a Tinder Date.” They told me, “No matter what, this’ll still be an awesome date.” I finally reached the White House, with only a fence standing between us and the South Lawn. Protesters were standing their banners along its wall, thousands of tweetable messages left as a symbolic gesture. It was a great wall, a great great wall of dissent, and it was beautiful.