After the election of President Trump in November, I decided to participate in the Women’s March on Washington that would be taking place on Portland Oregon on January 21, 2017. I decided to do so for a lot of reasons, with the biggest one being a search for some way to respond to, from my perspective on the world, is not an okay future for our country. That’s my why. It’s simple. It’s incomplete. It’s searching.
Afterward, I returned home drenched and went onto social media to learn about others’ experiences in Portland and around the world with this day. From media reports, this was anticipated to be the largest international protest in history. I wanted to see what I had missed while in the rain and mud. Part of what I discovered was a lot of assumptions about what happened and why. There were posts by leaders and by regular folks that the marches were violent, that the events left the march routes covered in posters (I saw the exact same picture attributed to three different cities), that the participants were paid to be there or unemployed or all women or angry or so many other assumptions.
So I wanted to write today to share my little what and why.
With at least 30 thousand people anticipated for the downtown Portland event, some wise friends and I traveled down via public transportation. We boarded a Max Train about 45 minutes before the event was to begin. More and more people boarded, or at least attempted to board, with every stop. We continued to squish closer, in an almost defiance of mass and space as people kept getting on. I clutched onto a bar with one hand, though now I wonder why because there was no way I was going anywhere. One friend ended up very close and personal with a gentleman who got on shortly before our trip ended. The cell phone from her pocket may have left a permanent imprint on his…let’s say back.
Getting out into the cold was a welcome relief as air was easily accessible once again.
Entering into Waterfront Park was another adventure as people were everywhere, all attempting to get into the same space. Again, we tried to defy physics. And failed. 😦
Men, women, and children covered the waterfront grass, and the bridges, and the nearby streets. Many held signs or umbrellas. Some parents carried children or pushed strollers ahead of them. After 30 minutes of attempting to get to the right side of the stage to hear, the small group I was part of settled into our muddy spot in the pack and visited as though it was any other Saturday afternoon. Mud seeped around my shoes and threatened to weigh down my jeans to a not-cool sagging look. We commented that it would have been wise for the organizers to turn some of the speakers toward this large back section so we could have heard what was occurring on stage. There were drum beats and clearly speakers, but what their words were, I may never know. Instead our back area would start into our own chants: Black Lives Matter; Let Us March; United Not Divided. And of course what my friend Susan called rolling “woo’s”. Folks would cheer for some reason, and because they cheered we cheered. We were surrounded by thousands of people who had reasons to be there. I don’t know what all of them were, but admired them all as they stood in the rain and the mud.
Finally the march began, though from our stuck spot it would be at least 30 minutes before I’d say we experienced real movement forward. We were able to escape the mud and join another small group of friends on the other side of the street. I literally jumped up and down in excitement at seeing them, and at having the capability of jumping up and down.
We walked, we talked, we chanted, and we read signs. And then we got back onto incredibly crammed Max Trains back home.
Tada! That’s it. Boring right? Not violent or angry or hating or destructive. Just searching.
The world did not change yesterday. It did not miraculously get better, nor did everything get destroyed because some people showed their hopes and fears by marching. For my friends who were there, I am grateful. For my friends who were not, you are still my friends. I needed to be there. I needed to put a few hours into the search for what’s next.
Chances are, no one famous in the media or politics is going to read this blog (Hi if I’m wrong). But maybe some friends will who have assumptions about the march yesterday, positive or negative. It was a moment in history. I personally think it was an important one. But the positive or negative importance will be determined by what happens next by and through all of us. A spark can become a flame and then a fire, but it depends on the kindling.