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Women’s March on Washington

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On Saturday, January 21st, 500 thousand people gathered in our nation’s capitol as part of the “Women’s March on Washington”- and a few Maggie Walker students were in their ranks.

 

The Women’s March was organized as a grassroots movement to emphasize popular support for women’s rights at the dawn of Donald Trump’s presidential administration. Though Washington’s gathering was the largest, at least 408 marches were planned across the United States as well as 81 internationally.

 

Students who attended the protest expressed concern about the rights of women and minorities under a Trump administration, and hoped to make their voices heard at the outset of his presidency.

 

“I felt like I couldn’t stand by and do nothing in the face of a new administration that has engaged in rhetoric that’s marginalized so many different communities,” said Emily Martin (`17).  

 

Jackie O’Neil (`17) also went to emphasize her own policy priorities. “I would say personally I wasn’t there to grieve the election of President Trump, I was there to encourage the new administration to respect, uphold, and maintain the progress we’ve made over the last 8 years in regards to women’s bodily autonomy and freedom of choice,” she said.

 

For Cole Mier (`19) the march felt like a venue for democratic catharsis rather than concrete political action. “A lot of my friends beforehand mocked me for going to the march because they believed that there was no point to it. ‘Nothing is going to change because of it,” was the mindset that they had,” he said, “I realized that this was true, but that was not the purpose of the protest. I felt it was important to go because it provides me with a voice to express disapproval.”

 

Many students attended the march in order to experience a historic event in real time. “It seemed like a refreshing opportunity,” said Kenan Potter (`18), “It’s not every day that you get the chance to join in on something so full of love and support and acceptance. We hear about powerful movements all of the time in class, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to be show my support for such a strong cause.”

 

As for the most memorable aspects of the March, students repeatedly comment on the instant bonds of friendship which emerged between protestors.

 

“We were packed into the Metro but… it was so natural to start a conversation about where they were from or what they did, knowing that people had such diverse backgrounds but were still united under this single cause,” said Martin.

 

Potter recalls a similar experience: “The Metro was incredibly crowded and cramped, but it was crowded and cramped with warm smiles and hellos and highfives. I can’t even count how many warm side conversations I had with strangers; it felt like everyone in the city was your friend,” she said.

 

Thea Konefal (`18), says she will remember witnessing protesters of all ages. “There was this one girl, in particular, who looked about twelve… At one point she started to lead a chant yelling ‘show me what democracy looks like!’ and then the whole crowd would yell ‘this is what democracy looks like!’… It was lovely to see such a young person uniting a few hundred protesting around her.”

 

Another unforgettable element? The massive crowds. “The most memorable moment was trying to leave, because it took a solid half an hour to walk 50 feet. There were so many people, it was nearly impossible to move,” said Mier.

 

“The subway cars were completely jam-packed and when we got to D.C. you could hardly tell where the actual march route was… because every single one of the surrounding streets was just as full of protesters, it was so massive,” recalled Evie Tsow (`17).

 

Even after the crowds dissipated, however, students say they were left with a renewed sense of enthusiasm and activism.

 

“This march was just the launching pad for what I’m sure will be four years of forceful opposition to the new administration’s attempts to cut us down and strip us of our rights,” said O’Neil.

 

Tsow echoes this sentiment: “I hope that onlookers’ takeaway is that women’s rights – and LGBTQ rights – must not be dismissed. Inequality is still a real issue, and hopefully the fact that three million people worldwide went out and protested will show the people and the new administration that these issues matter.”

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