I went to the Women’s March on NYC on Saturday and wrote this article for the Concordiensis, the student paper. Enjoy.
“The Women’s March Proves that the 21st Century Protest is Still About Bodies, not Tweets,” a headline on The Verge magazine’s website Monday (1/23) morning reads. The Millennial generation is largely criticized by its elder generations for its inability to mobilize on political issues, choosing instead to utilize the Internet as a means to spread messages of social activism.
An estimated 500,000 people attended the Women’s March in New York City on Saturday, January 22nd suggest that such passive Millennial activism is nothing but a myth. The NYC march itself began at 10:45 a.m. with speakers and a rally at Dag Hammarskjold, continuing down 2nd avenue to 43rd, turning onto 5th avenue, and ending finally at Trump Tower. Participants sporting pink “pussyhats” and police were agreeable and kind from what was witnessed—strangers joked with one another and marchers with creative posters posed for photos. The NYC march was a “Sister” March, which popped up in cities across the country and the world, to the original Women’s March on Washington. The idea for a march after Trump’s inauguration originated after the election in response to the Trump’s rhetoric on minority groups, specifically women and immigrants, exemplified most notably by the “Grab them by the pussy” fiasco that surfaced in early October 2016. All marches’ missions were to demand equality of all marginalized groups (not limited to women) in the face of a leader whose rhetoric has threatened the rights and safety of such people. Posters at the march echoed these sentiments, reading “X [Women’s, Muslims’, Immigrants’, LGBTs’] rights are human rights,” “My body, my choice,” “Love trumps hate,” and “I’m with her,” a play on Hillary Clinton’s campaign slogan, displaying arrows in all directions signifying fellow marchers.
Although the march was advertised as a women’s march, many men attended, chanting “Her body, her choice” in solidarity. The march in New York also attracted participants from ranges of ages—babies and toddlers marched alongside older women in the family-friendly affair. Many children rode atop their family members’ shoulders, holding signs of their own making, one such reading: “Trump is meen. Trump should not be president.” Fellow marchers noted and appreciated the representation from a range of ages; one marcher, Tai Ospina, Union College alumna of the class of 2016, admiring the dedication of the older marchers to a lifelong fight for human and women’s rights after learning about some marchers who participated in anti-Vietnam and women’s rights protests in the 1960s. Another Union alumna ‘16, Erin Lowrey, said that hearing the stories from such women made her better acknowledge the legacy of the individual people in the continued fight for equality for all marginalized peoples.
While a central ideal to the march was raising marginalized groups’ voices, it was notable the lack of diverse racial representation at the march in New York. When considering the city’s tremendous diversity in ethnicity and race and the recent social justice campaigns against institutionalized racism and police brutality, the general lack of the #BlacksLivesMatter campaign within the Women’s March is surprising. Instead, the anti-ethnic discrimination issues were represented largely by the Muslim and Latin American communities.
Union students attended the March on Washington the same day. The campus Women’s Union and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies program transported students for free by bus early Saturday morning after raising enough money to cover the funds completely. The Washington March, as not only the primary site of the march but also the nation’s capital, was well attended; The New York Times reports that crowd scientists estimate at least 470,000 marchers at the mall in the afternoon. Images on the article’s webpage show the drastic difference in crowd size of the march in comparison to President Trump’s inauguration the day before.
President Trump’s response on the colossal and global march against his rhetoric on his first day in office was a tweet reading in part, “Watch protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote?” Although seemingly forgetful of the fact that Hillary Clinton swamped Trump in the popular vote, he slightly regains composure by following the tweet with, “Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don’t always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views.” The coming years will likely see more protests for human rights against Trump’s rhetoric, especially if that rhetoric is followed up by policy changes, while the nation gains insight into this historic president’s 160-character thoughts.