Women’s March made strong by strong organization
By KAITLYN WIEDMANN
On the morning of Jan. 21, the Metro opened its doors at 5:00 a.m., a full two hours earlier than usual on a weekend. It was the morning of the Women’s March, and the protest had garnered such widespread support that the entire city seemed to hunker down in anticipation of the crowds that would soon flood the streets. Although the rally was scheduled to start at 10:00 a.m., and the march itself not until 1:15 p.m., several industrious souls set out for the heart of the city on the very first trains.
By 7:00 a.m. it was difficult to board a train at all. Enough people poured into the city that day to set records for the number of Metro trips taken, second only to the turn-out for Obama’s 2009 inauguration.
In the midst of the protest itself, people were packed in too tightly to do more than shuffle. It was impossible to see a beginning or end to the crowd, and even D.C.’s broad streets were too narrow to contain it. Everywhere I looked, there were hundreds and thousands of people spilling out in every direction, some coming, some going, some merely stepping aside for a bit, many with handmade signs, and many, many more with the distinct pink cat-eared hats.
The sheer size of the crowd was intimidating. A crowd that immense could easily be seen as a threat, or become one if everything went perfectly wrong, but thanks to the wonderful efforts of the Women’s March organizers, everyone inside and outside the protest could feel safe being in the city that day.
Security was a chief concern of the march’s organization. The organizers worked with city police from the beginning to ensure that there would be no misunderstandings. Police were stationed along the march route, providing security for the protestors and assisting anyone who needed help. The organizers also put strict restrictions on what could and could not be brought to the protest to keep the protest as nonthreatening as possible.
A list on the Women’s March website banned items such as wooden poles for signs and opaque bags bigger than eight inches on any side. Suggested items included clear backpacks and gallon bags for food. The Women’s March also provided food of its own and portable toilets. Their estimates for these were based off of voluntary surveys, and thus understandably fell a bit short, but I never had to look far to find either service, which went a long way towards keeping people in good spirits.
However, the march itself is where the organization truly shined. The march’s route was smartly lined up with several Metro stops so that any weary protestors could leave whenever they pleased.
Organizers and volunteers were present every few hundred feet along the way to rally marchers, keeping their spirits up and directing them on how to behave. The key moment that proved the march’s discipline to me was when we were halted by a few inflammatory pro-lifers who chose to sit themselves right in the path of the march. Rather than argue or challenge them, we stopped, a chant slowly building in volume from somewhere in the far reaches of the crowd.
Soon, everyone had taken up the cry of, “Love trumps hate!” and simply walked around them. I had been a little nervous up until then, but that was the point when I realized that everyone around me, regardless of personal feelings, had taken up the founders’ vision of a massive peaceful protest and was determined to see it through. I felt safe and secure that whole afternoon, surrounded by my new brothers and sisters.