The last time I had seen the Washington D.C. Metro so jam-packed was back in 1993 when I lived in Virginia and was returning home with my friend Becca after a Grateful Dead concert. And really, there’s no way it could have been as crazy busy as it was on the morning of the Women’s March, Saturday January 21st. After all, 500,000 people converging from every corner of the US take up far more space than a capacity crowd spilling from RFK. Still, it was nutty. Took Katie and I nearly an hour after getting off the train to finally exit L’Enfant station.
Outside, we followed a sea of people into the building crowd. The pre-march rally was set up at 3rd and Independence but the closest we could get was the 7th Street block. We learned later that people eventually stretched all the way to 15th Street (and down intersecting streets, no less). We claimed a spot near some port-a-johns (some got comfy on the port-a johns) and checked the time. It was nearing 10am, the start time. Pink hats as far as the eye could see.
Speaker after speaker riled the crowd. Angela Davis, Ashley Judd, Alicia Keys, Scarlett Johanssen, Michael Moore, 6-year old Sophie Cruz, Van Jones, Madonna, and plenty more. From our vantage point, we had a clear view of a jumbo-tron, albeit one with only sporadic audio. When we were busy listening, we forgot about how tightly the crowd was packing in. But whenever the speakers went out, folks remembered how frighteningly trapped we all were within the wall of marchers. I imagine anyone with a hint of claustrophobia had a rough go of it.
The rally was scheduled to last until 1:15. By 2:00, the crowd was interrupting speakers with desperate a pleading chant, “March, March, March!” and “Too much talking, not enough marching!” Medics were being called in more and more frequently and attendees attempting to swim upstream, out of the mob, found it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to flee the hordes. For a while I was enjoying the forced intimacy of the situation, but there were definitely moments when things got scary—when the crowd of thousands became one shift away from toppling. Had this been a crowd of as many men, I’m pretty sure there would have been more aggressive altercations amongst the frustrated.
Fact is, we wanted to march. And four hours of standing was getting to be too much. So that’s what we did…we marched.
Before the rally was over, and along an unplanned and un-permitted route, our north 7th Street crowd started filing into the mall. Chanting anti-Trump rally cries and basking in finally being able to move. And though it was slow-going, we marched. A look up the Mall towards the Capitol afforded a horizon of marchers, most carrying signs. To the Washington Monument, the same. Dead center, embraced by a palpable feeling of love exuded by relentlessly peaceful demonstrators.
We marched across Constitution Avenue, towards Pennsylvania, joining other marchers who had followed the actual route. This merge doubled the crowd’s size, tripled it even, and caused a roar of both excitement and voices as our chants increased exponentially in decibel and emotion.
Katie and I had to peel off to catch a flight from DCA. We figured if the crowds were the same as the morning, it could take hours to navigate the Metro. So we loped alongside the parade, thin enough now to skirt. We witnessed a contingent of middle-aged women and men in pussy hats, some carrying curling posters on sticks, chanting their own protest against the Bikers for Trump rally, happening adjacent to the march. Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American” was in the distance. It brought back brainwashed memories of singing it in bars with my fellow soldiers in the early 90s. Propaganda song.
It took us some time to cross the Mall, back to L’Enfant station. We watched Park Rangers assess the mess left over form the weekend’s events: the inauguration, the protests, the marches. We opted for a pee stop before descending into the Metro—and good thing because it was busy and would have made holding it uncomfortable.
Like so many others, we tucked our signs away and bundled up into warmer clothes. Which was interesting because suddenly it was really hard to tell who was there for what. Trump supporters, protestors, marchers, locals, oblivious citizens. As we slowly walked down the steps of the stalled escalator, swiped our Metro pass, then boarded the train for the airport, we all had one thing in common. We were tired. Grateful to be going home where the real work begins.
TAKE ACTION! Here’s what to do next.
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