On Saturday, I went to the Women’s March in Oakland. Last year, Laurie and I featured a post by my friend Kerry Ellis, who marched for the first time in her life (and volunteered for the roughly 1000th time). This year, Kerry encouraged me to volunteer as well.
I’m not a photographer, and I’m usually too caught up in what I’m actually seeing to take pictures of it, so most of these are crowdsourced pictures from Pro Bono Photo (and one from a friend).
Last year’s Oakland march drew around 100,000 people. This year, the estimates were for 30,000, but the final count was around 70,000. In most places in the country, the crowd counts were like this one, smaller but still very substantial (the photo above, from the end of the march, gives you some idea of what I mean by “substantial”).
My friend M and I volunteered at the rally, by the stage. The stage organizer and MC, herself a wheelchair user, told us that they had set a goal of 100% women of color speakers and performers, because that way they knew they could succeed in having about 70% WoC, which is about how it wound up–an awesome strategy.
The speakers were powerful, and often very radical, the performances stunning. Homeless people and the previously incarcerated were featured, and not much was mainstream. A group of middle-school-age hip hop dancers wowed the crowd. The mood was very mellow: angry but also forward-looking; very aware of the situation we’re in, and also feeling the energy in the marchers. I saw absolutely no incidents of crowd friction or trouble.
Because last year’s crowds had led to a lot of gridlock and a lot of frustrating waiting, this year the organizers very intelligently put the speeches first, in a huge space, and the march set off while the speeches were still going on: accommodating both those who wanted to listen and those who wanted to move. When M and I joined the march near the very end, it was moving slowly but steadily.
At the far end of the march, Oakland City Hall, the organizers had arranged what they called “Call to Action Alley” where various groups had set up tables and were offering options for people who want to begin or add to their political engagement.
It was an Oakland crowd: diverse on every conceivable axis. I saw an age range of at least 80 years, skin colors all over the map of the world, gender presentation variations galore, signs on every topic from voting activism to DACA to gentrification to trashing our current golfer-in-chief. Among all the important messages near us on the march was a very makeshift sign that just said “Eric seems dumb.”
I’m reasonably active in Oakland politics, and I know a lot of people: from my activist work, from the days when I owned a bookstore, and from just living here for the last 40+ years. Last year, I didn’t run into a single human being I knew except the friend I came with. This year, I saw a couple of other people I’d arranged or planned to see at the beginning, and at the very end I saw and hugged a City Council member I’ve picked up garbage with.
Being a well-connected person in a crowd of 60,000 people and not knowing any of them was oddly reassuring. When you’re in the political fight of your life, knowing that you’re not alone is essential.
Photo credits: Mary Martin DeShaw (top), Deb Hoag (middle two), and Marcia Crump (bottom).