I attended the Women’s March on Washington, and discovered it was about much more than gender equality – Business Insider


womens march
Protestors at the Women’s
March on Washington, January 21, 2017.

Leanna Garfield/Business Insider

WASHINGTON — On January 21, the day after Donald Trump’s
inauguration, I attended the Women’s March on Washington, in
which hundreds of thousands convened in Washington, DC and
cities around the world to stand up for human rights.

Though the protests were dubbed the Women’s March, they
were about more than just gender equality. People told
me they were marching for a range of issues, including
police brutality, equal pay, healthcare access, indigenous land
rights, LGBT discrimination, climate action, and disability
rights. 

These are all issues that President Trump and his cabinet
nominees have either opposed or downplayed. Among the laundry
list of examples: Trump intends to “build
a wall”
and
repeal
the Affordable Care Act, and Vice President Mike Pence
has
opposed
laws that fight LGBT discrimination in the workplace.
In December, Trump nominated
climate change skeptic
Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental
Protection Agency. In mid-January, education secretary nominee
Betsy DeVos
said
she may support federal funding cuts for students with
disabilities. It’s also hard to forget
the now-infamous leaked Access Hollywood audio
from 2005, in
which Trump bragged about grabbing women by their genitals.

That said,
according to
its official organizers, the Women’s March was
not primarily an anti-Trump effort rooting for him to fail as
president. Its mission was to stand up for equality during the
next four years. To me, especially as a journalist, the march was
also about preserving democracy and the First Amendment.


womens march
Protestors
at the Women’s March on Washington, January 21,
2017.

Leanna Garfield/Business
Insider


Even before Inauguration Day, January 21 was set to be a
record-breaking day.
Big names
like Madonna, Janelle Monae, Gloria Steinem, and
Angela Davis were in the speaker line-up. Organizers

predicted
that 200,000 people would march in DC, while
hundreds thousands more would march in over 60 countries on all
seven continents. The swell of marchers that actually showed up
shattered expectations. While Washington prepared for
400,000 people max, half a million came out,
according
to The Washington Post.

As a journalist, joining them put me in a sticky spot. On
the same day that over a million people in sister marches around
the world protested, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer

lambasted
the media for supposedly under-counting Donald
Trump’s inauguration crowd number. As many other reporters have

pointed out
, Spicer’s statement was false.

Incorrect statements like Spicer’s can be dangerous when
they come from behind a White House podium. It could set a
precedent that reporters should feel hesitant to do their jobs,
for fear that Trump and his staff will call it “fake news.”
Before I decided to go to the march, I talked with other
journalists who had reservations for documenting the march, even
if their companies allowed it.

Though I didn’t carry a sign or wear a “Nasty
Woman
” shirt, I opted to attend and report on the march — not
only as a journalist, but also as a woman and an American,
because after all, I am all three. This idea was also echoed in
a
recent Columbia Journalism piece
by Shaya Tayefe
Mohajer.

“Demanding equality is a core tenet of journalism, a fundamental
belief of many of its practitioners, and should no longer be
sidelined,” she wrote.

In 2017, it’s becoming increasingly hard to separate workers from
their personal identities. We saw this on Inauguration Day, when
a number of Rockettes declined to perform, a decision that was

reportedly
in response to Trump’s rhetoric and policy wishes.
At the march, protesters instead called for policies that protect
workers, regardless of their sexual orientation, religion, or
disability.

“This is not a Republican or Democrat issue — this is a women’s
rights issue,” one Rockette who didn’t perform at the
inauguration
told
 Marie Claire. “This is an issue of racism and
sexism, something that’s much bigger than politics.”


womens march unity became a resounding theme during the events speeches
Gizelle
Begler and Mira Veikley pose for a photograph at the Women’s
March in Washington.

Shannon
Stapleton/Reuters


Trump’s statements and leadership appointments will likely have
concrete consequences for millions of Americans — something that
was echoed throughout the march.

“I didn’t vote for you. But I want to be able to support you. But
first I ask that you support me,” Scarlett Johansson said at the
march, addressing Trump. She added that she hopes her daughter
can grow up with the same access to healthcare that Ivanka Trump
had growing up.

According to
a recent report
from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget
Office, an estimated 18 million Americans would lose healthcare
if the new administration repeals the Affordable Care Act,
including those with life-threatening illnesses.
De-funding
Planned Parenthood would nix routine breast cancer
screenings and pap smears, STI treatment, and sex education for
many. Stricter immigration laws
could mean deportation
 for millions more, many of
whom have lived and worked in the US for decades.


IMG_0528.JPG
A protester
wears a rainbow cape at the Women’s March on Washington, January
21, 2017.

Leanna Garfield/Business
Insider


At the march, speakers and demonstrators raised issues that do
not directly affect everyone. For example, on the stage, Janelle
Monae chanted the names of recent Black Americans who were killed
by the police, like Trayvon Martin and Sandra Bland. And on the
ground, marchers chanted, “native lives matter.” Even if a
particular issue didn’t affect marchers personally, they
still got behind it, because as reflected in their chants, “this
is what democracy looks like.”

Though the Women’s March could rank as
one of the largest
one-day protests in American history, what
the protesters were fighting for is nothing new. Led by
Martin Luther King Jr., the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and
Freedom voiced similar grievances against civil rights violations
while John F. Kennedy was in office. It was the same for the
anti-Vietnam War protests that spanned five presidencies, and the
anti-Iraq War protests during the George W. Bush administration.
Saturday’s Women’s March felt just as historic.

“We are here together making a chain of love, to protect our
families,” said Sophie Cruz, the 6-year-old girl who, in 2015,

gave
Pope Francis a letter that expressed worries her parents
would be deported.

There were also many small acts of kindness. Marchers talked
about their female role models, and complimented each other on
their outfits and signs. Random strangers offered me their extra
toilet paper in the porta-potties line. I saw one elderly man in
a wheelchair offer his (also elderly) wife a seat on his lap when
she felt tired. Wheeling along and wearing matching neon orange
beanies, the couple wore a sign that read, “justice and love for
all.”


womens march
Protestors
at the Women’s March on Washington, January 21,
2017.

Leanna Garfield/Business
Insider


The event was notably non-violent: there was
not a single arrest
in DC. The crowds squeezed into the
streets and overloaded the phone towers, but there was no pushing
or shoving. When I and those around me weren’t at a standstill
for two hours, we were re-routed, because we didn’t have enough
space to go anywhere.

That morning, I woke up at 3 a.m. to make a charter bus for 55
people attending the march. Traveling southbound, I saw other
buses with passengers wearing
pink cat-eared hats
(which became the day’s uniform). One
such bus had a sign in the window with an illustration of the
Statue of Liberty.

It read, “Stand beside her and guide her.”

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