Yesterday millions of people marched to declare “we’re not gonna take it!” It was an outpouring rarely seen in the US and across the world. Led by women outraged by the new president’s misogyny, racism and habitual dishonesty, huge crowds filled streets in cities and towns to say “no” to Trump. It was the birth of resistance to his administration.
There was an air of disbelief that, the day before, Donald Trump had become President. His blustery inaugural address, a dark statement of a country rotting and beset by “carnage,” was nightmarish. But it was a nightmare from which there was no awakening: the next day, he was bragging and lying at the headquarters of the CIA, a dark cartoonish thug who won’t go away.
Against this backdrop, I took to the streets in San Francisco, along with tens of thousands of my closest friends. Under threatening skies, our Women’s March filled United Nations Plaza – the birthplace of an organization that Trump derided as “a club for people to get together and have a good time.” It was a fitting spot. The crowd displayed a sense of unity and optimism that was rare for any demonstration, much less one under such grim circumstances.
The march was filled with women of all ages and colors, many wearing pink knitted pussy hats in defiance of the pussy-grabbing president. The signs and speeches proclaimed that all issues – health care, immigrant rights, climate change, racism and especially economic justice – are women’s issues, and that women’s issues are everyone’s issues.
Perhaps a quarter of the crowd were men, supporting the women while expressing their own determination to resist. The ease with which the men supported their female friends and relatives was remarkable, the fulfillment of a dream of early feminists: Now, we are all feminists.
The march in Washington was possibly the largest ever held. I attended the previous record holder – the November 1969 march for peace in Vietnam. It was a central, formative event in my life (you can read about my experience there in Some Way Outa Here), but yesterday’s events were very different is some important ways.
In 1969, the grotesque Vietnam war had been raging for four years. We went to Washington full of fury and desperation. On that frigid day, 600,000 people filled the streets chanting, shouting, jeering at a president and congress who were oblivious. The huge crowd showed that the antiwar movement was real and a force to be reckoned with, even as Nixon declared that a “silent majority” supported him. We were mostly peaceful, but the unifying theme was anger.
Yesterday’s march was utterly different. Instead of a long-simmering movement finding itself, as in 1969, this was a new one being born. Young people were discovering that they had much in common with older demonstrators, many of whom were veterans of previous movements. There was a sense that the many issues of the day were urgent and inseparable – this was no one-issue movement. There was a newfound outrage that our country has been seized by an unstable man who was foisted on us by a foreign autocrat, and who lost the popular vote to an unfairly vilified woman. Most of all, there was a fierce sense of commitment to resisting whatever atrocities lie ahead.
The 1969 march was a response to atrocities past, still being committed daily. The Women’s March was a statement that there is a vast movement ready to take on a president who seems hell-bent on committing new atrocities. All were agreed: grim events lie ahead, but we are ready to resist, and to someday sweep these people from power.
The 1969 March on Washington was a pivotal moment in American history. The peace movement went mainstream, no longer a fringe. It changed the lives of millions of Americans, myself included. You can read about the personal drama of that weekend in Some Way Outa Here.