Historic March On Washington: Record-Breaking Demonstration Provides Female Empowerment

On Saturday, Jan. 21, thousands of women flocked to the nation’s capitol for one purpose: to send President Donald Trump a message.

Over half a million people filled the streets of Washington D.C., marching in solidarity for women’s rights. For those who couldn’t make it to the capitol, more than 500 sister marches spread throughout every state. In addition, more than 100 marches took place in other countries around the world. There were marches on all seven continents, including the frozen tundra of Antarctica. Experts say three to four million marchers worldwide is a modest estimate. All together, the event was noted as the largest single day of protest in American history.

Thousands gathered at the rally the morning of the “Women’s March on Washington” on Jan. 21. Submitted by Lexi Byler / Special to The Forum

Although coined the “Women’s March on Washington,” a number of diverse issues were covered at the event. Celebrities like America Ferrera, Madonna and Alicia Keys spoke, aiming to inspire, motivate and encourage the demonstrators.

Ferrera told the crowd it isn’t our politicians that make up our country, but the people they represent. Madonna’s fiery speech invigorated the audience telling them this is where the revolution starts and Keys energized the people when she touched on the power of women.

“We are mothers. We are caregivers. We are artists. We are activists. We are entrepreneurs, doctors, leaders of industry and technology. Our potential is unlimited. We rise,” Keys said.

The organizers ensured the march would focus on inclusivity and gave space for more than 50 speakers and performers to get their message across. The subject matter explored the modern oppression of people of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights, the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), criminal justice reform, climate change, immigration rights, police brutality and the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

Lexi Byler, 23, an MSUM student (center), chanted in unison while marching through Washington D.C. Submitted by Lexi Byler / Special to The Forum

Prior to being elected, Trump’s campaign rhetoric concerned millions of Americans. His eagerness to build a wall at the Mexican border, comments about women needing to be punished for having an abortion, the appeal of the Affordable Care Act without a ready replacement, the deportation force he wishes to create, continual denial of climate change and the belief that Muslim immigrants should be barred from entering the country are just some of the issues that made people flock to D.C. in protest.

Crowd scientists say there were three times as many people at the march than there were at the inauguration. Based on the sheer number of demonstrators, it comes as no surprise that Trump has entered the Oval Office with the lowest approval rating in modern history: less than 45 percent according to Gallup.com. In comparison, President Obama had a 68 percent approval rating at his inauguration in 2009.

In his inauguration speech, President Trump said, “We are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the people.”

That is precisely what the marchers intended to do. Colorful signs scattered the crowd with messages that read, “Grab ‘em by the patriarchy,” “Equality includes everyone” and “The future is female.”

At times, the crowd was so large the march halted altogether. This led the organizers to decide the audience was too colossal to conduct a formal march to the White House. The route they originally mapped out was physically too compact to fit the mass of people.

When the organizers applied for a permit for the event, they estimated around 200,000 people. When well over half a million showed up instead and they were underprepared. But this didn’t stop the people. The horde shuffled their way, shoulder to shoulder, as close to the White House as possible.

Upon their arrival, they were unexpectedly greeted by a blockade of Secret Service, not allowing anyone within a block of the historic building. With such a large crowd, it’s understandable security would have concerns. Despite the worry, the event remained peaceful and no arrests were made.

A masked protester posed as a combination of the President and Pinocchio at the “Women’s March on Washington.” Submitted by Lexi Byler / Special to The Forum

“He needs to understand that more of us voted against him than for him,” said Debra Larson, 48, of Milwaukee. “And the direction he’s taking us in is not the direction we want to head in.”

Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, surpassed him in the popular vote by nearly three million votes. In comparison, Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000 by just over half a million votes when the presidency went to George W. Bush due to the electoral college system. Clinton’s margin – nearly six times larger – lead to not only mass frustration across the country but motivation to organize and act.

The organizers of the march didn’t intend for the event to be a singular form of action but a kickstart to the hard work that lies ahead. On their website Womensmarch.com, they created a call to action titled, “10 days of action for the first 100 days,” asking participants to become active in both local and federal government.

“I came to support the message and be a part of history. But this is just the beginning,” said Rachelle Dunne, 27, of New York City. “There’s a lot of work to be done and it’s only starting today.”

Since the march, organizers across the country have already begun organizing other events. With the recent executive orders signed by the President, DAPL protests have begun organizing a march for science. Momentum is building rather than diminishing since the historic gatherings that took place across the globe.
“It’s going to be an interesting four years to say the least. If we can stay focused and dedicated, who knows what will happen,” Dunne said.