We knew this was going to be huge when our local paper reported on the morning of Inagural Day, that a woman in our area put out a notice on Facebook that she was looking for enough women to fill a bus to go to DC for the Women’s March on Washington. She received enough responses to fill TWO buses. This, from Donald Trump’s heartland!
The turnpike plaza where we stopped was packed full of women clearly headed to the march. Early estimates suggested there might be upwards of 200,000 demonstrators. Every indicator we saw suggested many more.
The speeches were supposed to begin at 10:00 so we left Emily’s house in Manassas before 7:00 to head for the Vienna/Fairfax Metro station. By the time we got there it was already very crowded. I had pre-ordered a Metro ticket long before the event, but it never arrived. I was afraid the lines to get passes would be around the block, but we were early enough and the Metro had people to help with the machines. There was no problem getting a ticket.
The Vienna station is the farthest out on this leg of the Metro system. Here is what the train was like, with many stops yet to come:
Everywhere were the pink Pussy Hats, a recurring theme throughout the day. By the time the train arrived downtown, we were packed like sardines.
Because it was early, the barricades and food trucks were still being placed in position.
The food trucks lined a side street, but were impossible to get to except for those on the fringe.
Hundreds of porta-potties lined the streets and parks.
The route they gave us took us down 7th St, right onto the National Mall and right again on 4th St. We could only get as close as the intersection of 4th and Independence, between the Air and Space Museum and National Museum of the American Indian.
We were joined on this adventure by Jen’s friend Kim (on the left) who drove all the way here from Columbus.
This is a family that took the picture above. In turn, we took a picture of them. They invited Emily to join them.
Above is the end of the Air and Space Museum. This was as close as we could get. We arrived before 9:00 and by then Independence Avenue, where the stage was located, was packed. Here is the best aerial photo I could find showing our location:
In the lower right corner you see a blue box (C-Span bus) and a white box (Holding a big TV screen) We were just off the picture to the right of the white box. That area on the lower right of the picture is 4th St. The long street to the left is Independence.
Within the hour, our area became much more populated.
Keep in mind, all the above was going on before the first speaker even started. Here are some of the sounds:
You will note that while this is a determined crowd, it is not an angry crowd. I certainly cannot comment on the behavior of the hundreds of thousands of others scattered across the area, but where we were people were kind, respectful, helpful and supportive. Believe me, this day stood in sharp contrast to the demonstrations of the sixties and seventies. Maybe the most singular difference was in the attitude of the police and military who provided security. Far from combative, they joked with the crowd and were often helpful. There were no counter-demonstrations in our area. As far as I know, there were not any. Even when we finally marched, we saw nothing even hostile. It is generally agreed that there were some 500,000 people participating in this march. The Washington DC police reported zero arrests. Better than Woodstock!
From time to time, first responders would have to work their way through the crowd. Everyone gave way.
By now 4th street was packed all the way back to the National Gallery:
The speakers started promptly at 10:00. If you have any interest in this event, you have probably already seen clips. Here was our view.
Interspersed with all these people were a multitude of musical acts and speakers on every conceivable liberal agenda item.
There were problems with the sound system and some speakers could not be heard. Often the pictures of the crowd were pixelated. Those who arrived late, probably neither saw, nor heard any of the speakers, so, based on what we were hearing in the background, it seems they were amusing themselves with various chants, and who know what else.
The march was supposed to start at 1:00. At 2:30 they were still ranting away. After 5 and a half hours of this, while standing on hard pavement in the cold, misty air, and with no end in sight, we were starting to get edgy. And even those with the best of good will were sending echos of “MARCH! MARCH! MARCH!” cascading down 4th St. They fell on deaf ears. Some resorted to just sitting on the pavement if they could find room:
Apparently (and somebody could have told us), because the crowds were so much larger than anticipated, the leadership first decided to cancel the march. Then, they changed the route from in front of the White House to down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Ellipse. Barricades had to be moved, and so on, and all of this took time.
When you are packed in that tight, you can’t just say, “Well, that was pleasant, but I think I’ll head home.” There is no escape in any direction except by way of endless “Scuse me”‘s. Finally we were given orders to march! But, the question was, which way? The person on stage pointed her finger into the camera and said, “March this way!” Apparently, she forgot that TV screens were facing in all four points of the compass. Eventually we figured it out. Up 4th Street we went. Now, even more signs (if such a thing is possible), came out:
Here are some of the sounds:
Mercifully, the route took us past a park:
My favorite rebel:
Then, off we went down Pennsylvania Avenue:
We soon passed the Newseum, which, of course is dedicated to press freedom.
Then, incredibly, it took us past the Trump hotel.
Now people, I can guarantee that if this had been the sixties, there would not have been a window left un-smashed in this place. Today, people stopped for selfies. Then moved on.
We continued on for several more blocks, but the end was still some distance away and it was after 5. Thinking of those long Metro lines to come, we abandoned ship and headed for the nearest station. Others had preceded us, and rather than try to squeeze their signs onto packed trains, they created their own little museum:
The trains were indeed packed and it took us some time to get out of there, but the Metro workers are the unsung heroes of this event. They were terrific.
To experience a day such as this as a family is unforgettable. It was our moment for the ages. Will it have any lasting effect? Who knows? That depends on you. The one lesson, though, regardless of your political leanings, that cannot be overlooked is this: The world is now being driven by social media. If you have any doubts, go back and take another look at these pictures.