Laurie and I had plans to go to the Women’s March together, but she couldn’t make it. My friend M and I agreed to meet at my house and take the 15-minute BART ride to the march site. I warned her, and some other friends, that the trains would be crowded.
In the event, the trains were not crowded, they were jammed. It looked like Tokyo at rush hour, except that no BART employees were pushing people on, and in general most Tokyo commuters don’t have pink hats and protest signs.
We took the train in the other direction for several stops, and were able to get seats on a not-too-crowded train that way, although someone at the station told us that the lines to buy BART tickets went around the block!
It then took us well over 40 minutes to take the by-now-30-minute ride to the march site, so our 15-minute trip took us more than 90 minutes. Fortunately, unlike most people on our train, we were seated, together, in a fairly quiet corner.
Everyone was decked out and in good moods, and thrilled by the size of the crowd. When we did get to the march site, there were people everywhere. We found what looked like a march group and joined in. The mass of people we were in moved very slowly, and we eventually found out that the crowds were so big that they had split the beginning of the march into three segments, which were meeting up at a bottleneck up ahead. No one minded very much, if at all.
The City of Oakland estimates the crowd at 60,000 people, which of course I think is low. The marchers were delightfully diverse in age (I would say I saw people from 0 to in their 80s), lots of men and tens of thousands of women. My companion commented that there weren’t as many people of color as would fairly represent Oakland, which is true, but it was by no means an all-white crowd. We didn’t stay for the rally, but I know the plan was to center women of color as speakers and leaders.
The signs were everywhere: funny signs, furious signs, carefully-thought-out signs. Signs defending women, defending people of color, defending Muslims, defending science, castigating Trump. “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance” was pretty popular, as were signs that said “I’m with Her” with arrows pointing in all directions. “Love Trumps Hate.” “Make America Kind Again.” I was carrying Ernesto Yerena’s “We The Resilient” sign from this grouping (the art at the top of this post is Shepard Fairey’s from the same grouping), and wearing my “RESIST” t-shirt from Think Progress. Someone stopped me as we were leaving BART to take a picture of my shirt and sign. If I had thought to ask her to send me a copy, I’d post it.
We got entangled with a group of young people, all dressed in yellow, with signs that said “NO SCRUBS.” I had to ask, and they referred me to this Vevo song, about men who pretend to have what they don’t have.
The most gratifying thing for me was not the numbers, or the range of people, or the mood–though all of those were gratifying. It was the sense I got throughout the crowd that people know this is going to be a long, hard, painful fight, and a lot of us are in it for the long haul.
M and I left the march after several blocks of walking almost painfully slowly, and came home. I was out later in the afternoon doing errands, and the older Chinese man in my local hardware store asked me, in his limited English, about my RESIST t-shirt. I said, “No Trump.” He said, “You don’t like Trump?” I said, “No, I don’t. Do you?” and he said, “I don’t know. I like everybody!”
I’ll be back to talk to him more about Trump. Mike, the Arab man who owns the coffee shop on my corner told a friend of mine that Trump is the best thing that ever happened to this country. I’ll be talking with him, too.
For me, marches like this one are one of the things we need to keep ourselves moving forward, and to remind the politicians that we are a force to be reckoned with.