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The March: January 21, 2017

January 22, 2017

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I am still exhausted. My feet hurt and every muscle in my body aches. A friend and I staggered off the Whidbey Island ferry and home about 7:30 pm. Then it was a hot bath – and in bed by 9 PM.

How do I begin to describe what it was like to march through the streets of Seattle with thousands and thousands of others?  Imagine walking beside 125 – 140,000 people who are – in that moment – members of your tribe? There were men and women, young and old, some with walkers or in wheelchairs, thousands sporting their pink “pussy hats”. There were four busloads from Whidbey: 224 people. Another 200 came by themselves: over 400 people from our little island.

The parade began with a strong contingent of First Nation women – and men. There were huge beautiful banners from every tribe, and drums – lots of them. The unified BOOM! of those drums galvanized everyone within earshot. I flashed back to many celebrations I had seen in Africa…the pounding of the drums… and the dancing. As the sound grew louder and louder, I thought, how wonderfully appropriate…that First Nation people should begin this historic march.

“Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.”

Everywhere you looked there were people… and signs. There were quotes from famous people… Martin Luther King…Goethe…John Kennedy…Plato. On the front page, the Seattle Times featured a picture of 7 year old Brinegar Darnell leading a chant of “Hey, hey…ho,ho…Donald Trump has got to go!” As we all walked down Jackson Street and then 4th Avenue, the line was three miles long. I remember passing an elderly couple sitting on the side of the street on their walkers. “Thank you for being here!” I yelled. They smiled and waved back. As we hit downtown and the tall buildings, there was a window washer perched outside, high up on a skyscraper. He waved frantically and we shouted back a response.

“Strong women: let’s honor them; BE them; raise them.”

The weather forecast had said cold and rainy. But the sun was warm on our faces (maybe a little too warm; we were over-dressed) and the sky was clear. As we passed Wells Fargo Bank, some young people in the fifth floor windows began dancing and waving and we waved back. There was a man on top of one of the skyscrapers frantically waving a huge flag. Someone finally spotted him and we all roared a response.

“Planned Parenthood saved my life.”

I spoke with the lovely young woman who carried that one. She was probably in her mid- 20’s. At 13, her mother had taken her to Planned Parenthood and told her that if she ever had questions to go there. At 16, she had an examination just before she went off to college – early. At 19, she went back to Planned Parenthood (among other reasons, because she was a college student and could not afford to go anywhere else) and had an exam. They found cervical cancer. She had an operation. And that was why she was marching – carrying a huge pink sign.

Incredibly, in the midst of this sea of people, there were reunions. I saw at least four people I knew – not from Whidbey. Everyone that I walked with had the same experience. As you were walking, you would hear this shriek, “DAVE!”, then a quick hug as the mass kept moving.

“I’m not usually one for signs…but GEEZ….” (from a young man)

“I can’t believe I’m still protesting this shit.” (from an older man)

My friends and I stopped for a brief rest on the steps of a large building and gobbled some snacks and water. I couldn’t believe how hungry and thirsty I was. I also realized (once I sat down) that my legs were like Jello. But I was so pumped I think I would have just walked until I fell down. Thank God I brought my knee pads! Once I donned them, I had no further problems.

As we got underway again, another of the huge ROARS came down. These shouts would start at either the beginning or the end and just sweep down the lines of people. The noise was deafening – and marvelous!

“POWER  – People Of  Whidbey Elegantly Resisting.”

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We finally caught up with the huge pink banner that identified the Whidbey Island folks. I got some great shots as I walked backwards and all the people behind the banner waved and shouted.

“Equal rights and justice for all.”

When we finally reached Seattle Center, the endpoint, we plopped down on some rocks outside the gates and watched. We thought we were in the middle of the march. But as we sat, people kept coming…and coming…and coming. We sat or stood there for an hour and a half and the marchers just kept coming. As we watched, huge puppets paraded around the Seattle Center fountain. They were at least 8 or 9 feet tall, with 3 people manning each one, representing everyone from Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani who has become a feminist icon, to mythological or literary figures.

“Questioning Trump is our moral obligation.”

Finally, late in the afternoon, it began to rain. As the sun went down, we all realized that it was still winter and were terribly glad we had brought sweaters, hats, gloves, raincoats, etc. As a gentle rain fell, our organizers assembled us into bus groups.

I am so glad I went. I know it sounds pompous, but I believe – as one of the millions who marched around the world – that I marched into history. And – on this day in Seattle which broke all kinds of attendance records for this type of event – the police didn’t make a single arrest.

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