On January 19th Brian Iler, Mary Brock, Paulette Pelletier-Kelly and I drove down to Washington to witness the events around the inauguration of Donald Trump. It was a remarkable trip for us. We witnessed the promise of a powerful, transformative movement in North America.
Young National Guardsmen at the Trump inauguration
The 20th was inauguration day. We walked down to the mall, the vast space leading up to the capital building, where the ceremonies were to take place. There were lots of people converging on the mall. Young men in army fatigues were at every street corner close to the capital building. These were the National Guard. Security were everywhere. Police, on motorcycles and on horses. Cops on foot with guns and billy clubs. Helicopters, with their rhythmical sound of propellers were beating the air in the skies overhead. It was Apocalypse Now revisited.
Surrounding the mall were ten foot high wire impenetrable fences. People were lined up to get through small security gates in the fences and into the mall. It took us a couple of hours but we did finally make it. The four of us found a spot near the Washington Monument and watched the speeches and ceremony on a huge monitor.
Nobody was very happy. Maybe 50% of the crowd were Trump supporters, and the rest were people like ourselves, curious onlookers. The rain started as soon as Trump started speaking and his speech was dull and uninspired.
The next day, Saturday, January 21st, was the women’s march, and it could not have been more of a contrast. Again we set out on foot in the morning. As we got close to capital hill we saw more and more people on the street, many carrying signs. Most were women but there were many men. The crowd flowed like the tributaries of a river. At every street corner more people joined. The river grew larger and larger. By the time we were at the capital building it was enormous and it was growing by the minute.
The fence around the mall was gone. There were no police, no National Guard, no helicopters, only people, throngs of them, and there were more coming from every side.They were there to show their resistance to Trump and his sexist contempt for women. They were young and old. People of all colors and religions.
We made our way down to where the speeches were to be given, and the closer we got the crowd got denser and denser. Soon we could barely move. Cheek by jowl, shoulder to shoulder, we inched our way along, moving with the crowd because there were so many people we could not do anything else.
We never did get close to the speaker’s podium or the monitors. It was just too big a crush. How many people? All I can say is that it was the biggest crowd I have ever been in. A million? A million and a half? I don’t know because I find it hard to imagine what a million people, gathered in one spot, looks like, but it was an astounding number of people.
And though we could not hear the speakers, it didn’t matter. We talked to people that surrounded us. When they heard we were Canadians their reaction was to smile and say something like, “How can I move there?” There were people from all over eastern North America: Chicago, Virginia, New York, Atlanta, Boston, Texas, Michigan.
A girl shows her message to the marchers
There were chants: “This is what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!”
The signs were truly creative. Virtually every sign was hand made by the person carrying it. “The GOP is the elephant in the womb.” “We will over-comb!” “Love Trumps Hate,” “Women Won’t Back Down,” “We are the Noisy Majority,” “She the People,” “Women’s Rights are Human Rights,” “More than Jugs and a Baby Hatch.” “Regulate Banks not Uteruses.” “We are the Granddaughters of the Witches You Could not Burn,”
The mood was electric, enthusiastic, good humoured, peaceful, and rebellious all at the same time. It was remarkable, wonderful, and moving just to be there.
This is the promise of a powerful new movement. Men have tried in the past but we can’t do it. It is up to women and minority groups. That is the powerful majority that is emerging, and they are demanding nothing less than democracy and equality for all. They will transform the world.