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The Anti-Inauguration: Scenes from the Massive Women’s March on Washington

“Welcome to your first day! We will not go away!”

by John Surico
Jan 22 2017, 12:23am

All photos by Jason Bergman

In his decades in Washington DC, Ranard Wood, 68, had never seen anything quite like what descended on the nation's capital on Saturday. That morning, a seemingly endless stream of people swarmed the streets surrounding the US Capitol, down the block from where he lives. The muddied National Mall was quickly filling with pink-puffed "pussyhat"-laden protesters. It wasn't even 10 AM, and there were already more people on hand than were there for Donald Trump's inauguration the day before.

Wood—who was holding a sign that read, "At the Midterms, Let's Get Real"—told me he wasn't surprised. "These people have been in power for six years, and they got nothing accomplished. Now, somehow, they're in charge," he said. "People are just fed up."

On Trump's first full day in office, the Women's March on Washington engulfed nearly every block within a one-mile radius of the Capitol. It was the largest demonstration an inaugural weekend has ever seen, and then some—early estimates of 200,000 to 300,000 were being revised upward by the end of the day.

The procession started at Independence Avenue and 3rd Street SW, where a stage was set for a long list of celebrity speakers and artists, from America Ferrera and Gloria Steinem to Madonna and Ashley Judd. On the streets, too, a slew of famous people were spotted, emblematic of the culture war that has been smoldering between Hollywood and Washington. There were even a handful of Democratic politicians and some scattered Trump supporters.

This had all started as a Facebook post that went viral and spawned a infrastructure of organizers; solidarity marches were held all around the country and internationally—even women in Antarctica showed their lack of support for Trump and his policies. The attendees were mostly women, but there were plenty of men, and they spanned all ages—kids, parents, grandparents—and races; a stark contrast to the more homogenous crowd that had welcomed Trump the day before. And their message was clear through one of their loudest chants: "Welcome to your first day! We will not go away!"

Even within 24 hours of taking office, Trump is already an unpopular president, and both his policies (for instance, his promise to defund Planned Parenthood) and his frankly sexist rhetoric have offended women in particular. Feminists are opposed to many of the principles of the Republican Party, but the fact that it's led by a man who bragged about grabbing pussy literally adds insult to injury.

The march wasn't simply about those issues, however, and you could find representations of anger at Trump's climate change denial and institutionalized corporate greed, among other causes. Some chants were a little more personal: "You're orange! You're gross! You lost the popular vote!"

As the crowds began marching towards the White House, I met Jordan Hemmerdinger, 12, and her mom, Jacquie, 43, who left New York City at 5 AM to be here. Every train station they passed was packed with people, they said, and even the conductors were welcoming the protesters to DC. "It was the perfect opportunity to get my daughters involved," Jacquie told me. "And to teach them that, when things don't go your way, you don't sit home. You have your voices heard."

I asked Jordan—who held a sign that read, "I'm a Feminist. What's Your Superpower?"—what it was like to be here. I told her that the day before, I had seen a number of children her age, wearing "Make America Great Again" hats, standing right where she was today. She said that on the morning after the election she told her mom that she was scared of riding the subway to school. "I was worried about people touching me," she said. "If it was normal for the president to be accused of sexual assault, won't it be OK for people to do it?"

On Friday, some anti-Trump protests became violent, but on Saturday the masses remained peaceful; throughout the day, there was little sign of confrontation with the DC Metropolitan Police, who closely monitored the march. As the numbers swelled, the original route was rendered useless, with blocks full of people with no cellphone service converging in every direction.

Nearly every protester I encountered was in awe of how many people had showed up here from all over the country (while most came from urban, traditionally liberal areas, I met women from Utah, Virginia, and Michigan), giving some reassurance that America hadn't totally lost its fucking mind. In the line for Don's Johns, the famed porta-potties that were still left over from the inauguration, I met a woman named Ann who worked in DC. She said that the subway ride in for her was more packed than any of her morning rush hour commutes. "We were concerned that enthusiasm would be down, after the inauguration and all," she told me. "Guess not."

When I asked her what the message of the day was, she shrugged. Then, she added, "I just know that Trump will downplay this as soon as possible"—indeed, the administration has already disputed the media's reporting on his inauguration crowd sizes. "But it's good that we all see each other here, and know we're on the same page," she continued. "Because this is not normal."

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