I traveled with the NOW-NYC group to the march in D.C. on January 21. We felt exhilarated as we made our own signs and carried them up high for everyone to see. The colorful parade with its provocative banners against Trump and his team, signs that screamed out in protest of the new government violating our much fought for voter, reproductive, and civil rights, absorbed us and we were soon pushed toward the vicinity of the rally with its speakers lending their powerful language to further energize an already energetic crowd. The feeling of solidarity, the awfulness of the election of a President who was antithetical to every idea of justice Americans had fought for, the need to work together to handle this new beast—all of this was palpable.
As I was pushed into the thickest part of the crowd, I realized the crowd was sandwiched behind barricades on the corner of 4th and Independence to restrict them from flowing down Independence Avenue. Some of the women around me were fainting and had to be escorted by the national guardsmen into the medics’ tent. I focused on the speeches by Tammy Duckworth, followed by Black Lives Matter and Planned Parenthood, and I used all my willpower not to pass out when Alicia Keyes was speaking. It grew suffocating by the minute.
Some of us wove our way back toward C Street. The marchers reported that they were not allowed beyond 14th street. Why had Trump ordered us to be blocked away from the White House? As May Nazareno, one of the staff organizers for NOW-NYC said, “He is working for us. We need to take ownership of our democracy.”
Another thing many marching with me noted was the absence of helicopters and drones to maintain a count of the marchers. Why had Trump made this area a no-fly zone when only the previous day, drones and helicopters were making a tally of the number present at the inauguration?
As May Nazareno pointed out, not many reporters were present at the march compared with the barrage of media present at the inauguration. Why such a paucity of reporters?
So, we need to do the job of the media and post on Facebook, write blogs and articles of our eyewitness accounts of the march, become historians and document everything and respond to issues as they arise, because an authoritarian government’s main task is to curtail democracy and free speech and twist truth and replace reality with falsehoods.
What I witnessed was the immediacy of unity, peace, justice, awareness of issues, sensitivity, kindness, wit, humor, and love. And these we can build on to save the country from falling apart.
(Photo Credit: Chang W. Lee / The New York Times) (Audio interview with May Nazareno conducted by author)