The Capitol overlooks the Women’s March. Photo by Allegra Taylor
Last Friday, Jan. 20, 39 Lawrence students boarded a bus bound for Washington D.C. The bus traveled overnight in order to reach the city by Saturday morning. This left little time to spare before the start of the Women’s March on Washington. On the morning of the march, hundreds of charter buses congregated at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium where participants from all around the country walked and took the Washington Metro to reach downtown. Bright pink hats and signs with phrases like “The future is female” and “Always forwards, never back” distinguished many of the marchers.
Before the start of the official march, hundreds of thousands of people crowded the streets of downtown Washington for a rally that included speeches from the organizers and some well-known supporters of the march. “At this very challenging moment in our history,” author and activist Angela Davis began, “let us remind ourselves that we, the hundreds of thousands, the millions of women, transpeople, men and youth who are here at the Women’s March, represent the powerful forces of change that are determined to prevent the dying cultures of racism and hetero-patriarchy from rising again.”
Co-Chair of the Women’s March on Washington Tamika Mallory spoke on the issue of racism and police brutality in the U.S. “Today I am marching for black and brown lives,” Mallory said. “For Sandra Bland, for Philando Castile, for Tamir Rice, for Aiyana Stanley-Jones, for Eric Garner, for Michael Brown, for Trayvon Martin and for those nine people who were shot at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.”
In addition to the speeches, there were performances by musicians such as Alicia Keys and Janelle Monae. To wrap up the rally and signal the beginning of the march, the crowd was invited to sing along to a new take on the Civil Rights Movement anthem, “Ella’s Song.” Toshi Reagon, the daughter of the original writer, Bernice Johnson Reagon, wrote the updated version of the song.
The march itself began shortly after 1 p.m. The marchers waved colorful signs and chanted things like “This is what democracy looks like” and “No justice, no peace.” The crowd of pink-clad demonstrators followed Independence Avenue, turned at the Washington Monument and marched on past the White House.
Preliminary estimates put the number of marchers in Washington at over 1 million, with even more people marching in more than 600 sister marches around the world. The Women’s March on Washington organization has released a 10-step action plan in order to mobilize activists for the first 100 days following the march.