I’m not going to lie, my nerves reached a high point going into NYC’s 2018 Women’s March on the morning of January 20th. Despite the traction that this new era of feminism has built in the last year alone, I couldn’t shake the fear that our momentum had diminished. That complacency had taken over, and that last year’s marchers would feel too greatly that speaking out is futile. I’m pleased to say that my anxiety was completely and utterly unfounded.
Unable to make it to the pre-march rally, I arrived at 71nd St. and Central Park West at 12:30pm to a densely packed but relaxed and organized crowd stretching endlessly in both directions. The sun was unexpectedly out in full force, bathing us all in the warmth of much-needed late January Vitamin D. We couldn’t figure out a way into the march, so my companions and I followed the stream of eager attendees walking north to find an entry point. I asked one woman if she knew where we needed to go, given that all of the instructions I’d read said to arrive and enter at 71st, and she responded that she’d heard the closest way in was way up at 86th St. Immediately my tension eased — that had to mean attendance was high.
And high it was! The sea of creative signs carrying bold messages and last year’s pussy hats was only punctuated by gaps where intersections were barricaded by the NYPD for crowd control. For most of the day, the crowd around me was calm and content in its unity; chants fading in and out, children sitting on parents’ shoulders, dogs shuffling along with signs taped to their winter vests.
Looking around, one key element that felt missing to me was unapologetic diversity. Intersectionality has been a major piece of the conversation around equality in the past year, with voices from the LGBTQ, African American, Muslim, Latinx, disabled, and other marginalized communities being heard louder than ever. However, to be blunt, white people were the clear majority at the march this year. This absence was a message to us all — our work is not even close to being done.
After about three hours of slow, steady marching (and weaving in and out of the crowd periodically), my friends and I passed the Trump International Tower — recipient of many, um, interesting chants — and made it to Columbus Circle. There, we were met with something none of us really anticipated. A handful of pro-Trump counter protestors were lined up along the perimeter and were holding up signs with messages like “President Trump is Q Anon!”. Several times, Women’s Marchers holding Black Lives Matter signs attempted to engage rationally with the group but were met with brash remarks. At one point, a young woman asked a Trump supporter where he was from, and he responded, “you’re wearing too much makeup — what is all of that on your face?”
At that point, we accepted that any potential for conversation was a lost cause and moved on. We weren’t about to let all of the positivity and empowerment that had built up around us throughout the afternoon go. I ended my Women’s March experience with full certainty that as we approach this year’s consequential midterm elections, women of all walks of life (and our allies!) are ready and willing to take our #PowerToThePolls.
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All photos by Lyka Sethi.