On 20th January 2017, Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States of America.
This article isn’t about that. It’s about what happened the next day.
On 21st January 2017, an estimated 500,000 men, women and children marched in Washington DC. Five hundred thousand people gathered to see 44 speakers including Michael Moore, Gloria Steinem, Ashley Judd, Scarlett Johansson and Cecile Richards, as well as dozens of live acts. Astonishingly, there were zero arrests in the capitol march, despite the huge numbers of people involved.
It was one of hundreds of similar marches, drawing in an estimated total of 3,267,134 from across the USA and 267,292 internationally. Across the globe, 915 marches took place, with over 3.5 million people joining in an extraordinary show of public feeling. It’s difficult to actually process that figure that’s around the same number as the population of Uruguay.
While it was impossible to predict how the Women’s March would impact on the President, it became clear as the numbers arriving in Washington grew and the global statistics were published that this movement was more than just a protest. It was an international outpouring of feelings; both of anger against the treatment of women around the world, and of hope for the future.
There was no official response from the White House. The Press Secretary went as far as to ignore questions related to it. Some unofficial comments were made by various staff, most of which were reported as negative. Media coverage compared numbers to that of the Inauguration the previous day, resulting in a carnival of false statistics and inflammatory statements from the President’s team.
On Twitter, the usually verbose President was oddly silent - when he finally returned to social media on the 22nd, it was with a sideswipe aimed at the marchers themselves. His second reaction was carefully measured, but again, lacked commentary on the issues raised by the marches.
No matter where the marches were, there were speeches, entertainers, thousands of banners and signs, and hundreds of thousands of little pink hats. These “Pussyhats”, as they are known, represent not only the marchers, but the people who made the hats themselves, allowing those unable to be on the marches to add their voices to the throng.
It also provides a visual clue as to what these marches and protests were about. During his stormy election campaign, the Washington Post published an audio clip of Trump recorded in 2005, in which he is clearly heard making comments about his behaviour with women. From this clip, the statement “grab them by the pussy” went viral, and became a rallying cry for women all across the world.
Throughout the campaign, there was a slew of complaints against the Presidential candidate and his behaviour towards women, taking the form of tweets, blogs, articles, and even a court case (since dropped) which alleged he was a rapist. Alongside all this was the well documented evidence and press from his own campaign, which applauded racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic rhetoric from both Trump and his running mate, Mike Pence.
On Inauguration day itself, there were riots and protests in Washington and all across the world. For many people though, it was a silent protest - low attendance numbers, many calls to boycott the live streams and television footage being shown. Instead, the following day, people took to the streets with pink hats, kickstarting what became a global movement.
Live streamed across multiple news websites, as well as Buzzfeed and via their Facebook page, I saw estimated viewing figures which varied from 30 - 54k. As I watched the march, I was struck by both the scale of humanity involved, and the sounds… the audio feed picking up the sounds of hundreds of thousands of mixed voices which underlaid everything else.
Testimonial for Warrior Women Magazine from a Washington Marcher, L.
“When we finally got off the subway downtown to wind our way to the Mall, the streets were filled with people. People in pink hats, people carrying signs, women, men, kids…and just a lot of friendly camaraderie. The previous day there were a bunch of organized protesters, slash rioters and you could really tell that this was a different group today. This felt to me like a truly grassroots event. It was an amazing feeling to realize how many people just felt the need to come out and be counted… Even though the march was organized around “women’s issues”, and much of the speeches I saw did focus on typical women’s issues topics, people seemed to be there for all sorts of issues: health care, immigrations, refugees, and just general opposition to Trump.”
At the march, the organisers launched a follow up campaign called “10 actions / 100 days”, helping protesters keep the momentum they had built by carrying out ten actions in the first 100 days of his presidency. By 9th February, Trump had signed 25 Executive Orders and memos, many of which caused global concern. At the same time, the “10 actions” campaign went global.
The lack of response from the White House was not unexpected; for most of the people who went on the march, or who supported those that did, the more important thing was the future of the grassroots movement.
The hope for the future is that the united strength of “individuals and organizations committed to equality, diversity, and inclusion and those who understand women’s rights as human rights” can continue to grow and change the world for the better, for all people.
For more information on the women’s March on Washington and the “10 actions / 100 days” movement, visit https://www.womensmarch.com/global/