Liberal Column

Jermyn: A firsthand account of the record-breaking Women’s March on Washington

Leigh Ann Rodgers | Staff Photographer

On Saturday, the day of the Women's March on Washington, the Washington Metro recorded 1,001,613 trips on its subway system. The Metro recorded 570,557 trips on Friday, the day of President Donald Trump's inauguration.

From Los Angeles to London, Berlin to Bangkok and Seneca Falls to Syracuse, millions of people turned out on Saturday for women’s marches across the globe to protest President Donald Trump and the derogatory rhetoric of his candidacy and presidency.

The primary women’s march in Washington, D.C. became one of the largest protests in the district’s history. And it was joined by sister marches in all 50 states, more than 60 countries and even Antarctica. As I’m sure it did for many others, the Women’s March on Washington  had an incredible impact on me and was an experience I will never forget.

The day of the inauguration, a professor I know who also planned on attending the march the next day handed me a stack of business cards and told me to call her in the event that anything went wrong. The kind gesture was made even more meaningful when I noticed the cards were for her position in the Daughters of the American Revolution, a women’s group composed of the descendants of those who fought for our nation’s independence. Saturday’s march, while much more peaceful, felt like another revolutionary act.

Driving into D.C. on Friday night, a dense fog cloaked the city, adding to the ominous feelings associated with Trump’s presidency. And although this cold, looming weather continued throughout the day on Saturday, it didn’t seem to affect the moral or determination of the marchers.

I began the day at a rally for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y.) podcast Off The Sidelines, which focuses on empowering women in everyday life and in seeking public office. When I asked Gillibrand why she was participating in the march, she said women’s voices are more important now than ever.

“We need women at the table as major decisions about the future of our country get made that will have a lasting impact for years to come,” she added.

Gillibrand’s resoluteness was a common theme for marchers, who spoke out about more than women’s issues. People marching on behalf of the Black Lives Matter movement, climate change action and especially women’s rights and gender equality stood together and supported each other and each cause throughout the day.

Getting to and from the march was the most challenging part of the day. The Washington Metro recorded 1,001,613 trips on its subway system on Saturday. Compare this to 570,557 trips recorded on the day of the inauguration — a disappointing turnout Trump doesn’t seem to be able to accept.

This incredible turnout was by far the most impactful part of the march for me. March organizers originally submitted a permit for 200,000 marchers to the National Park Service, but estimates quickly exploded to more than half-a-million attendees. The entirety of Independence Avenue — the viewing location for speakers including legendary feminist activist Gloria Steinem and filmmaker Michael Moore — quickly became overcrowded, and march organizers were forced to scrap the original march route.

I became part of the group that marched straight up Pennsylvania Avenue from the National Mall to the White House. There’s no way to know how many people went along this path, or how many followed the original route or other routes entirely. All I know is that in every direction I looked — down the length of Pennsylvania Avenue and every street branching off it — there was a sea of people.

For such a large group, the march remained peaceful and positive. D.C. police reported no march-related arrests, while more than 230 violent protesters were arrested the day of the inauguration. At one point during the march, police vans making their way down Pennsylvania Avenue to reposition officers along the route were applauded by marchers as they moved aside to let the vans pass. “Kill them with kindness” may have been an appropriate slogan for Saturday, as solidarity against Trump helped to stave off march-related conflict.

The questions remains as to whether these marches were nothing more than a flash in the pan, or the beginning of a lasting movement that supports and defends women’s rights from a president and Congress that won’t. Standing in our nation’s capital, surrounded by protesters as far as the eye could see, it was difficult to imagine these people will go quietly.

Cole Jermyn is a junior environmental resource engineering major at SUNY-ESF. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at cdjermyn@syr.edu and followed on Twitter @Cjermyn8.

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