A number of Muftah’s staff members and friends attended Women’s Marches around the world this Saturday, January 21. From D.C. to Dublin, what we saw was uniformly joyful, uplifting, and hopeful. Some of our staff and friends have reflected on their experience, below.
May these sentiments continue forward, and create the foundation for a movement that will bring mutual respect, social justice, and true, meaningful equality back to democratic politics, in the United Staes and beyond.
Matthew DeMaio, Muftah Editor, Washington D.C. Women’s March:
Participating in the Women’s March in Washington, DC gave me a sense of determination and optimism that I have sorely lacked. The time between Donald Trump’s election victory and his inauguration has been equal parts frightening and frustrating. It was frightening because of the people it swept into power and frustrating because of the shockingly little accountability this new regime seems to have. Trump’s inaugural speech, penned in large part by former Breitbart chief executive Steve Bannon, only reinforced my feelings of fear and frustration, with an “America First” message that declared war on perceived enemies at home and abroad.
Making my way down to the National Mall on Saturday, standing in a packed bus and seeing trickles of people become streams and eventually masses of marchers made my despondency evaporate instantly. I reached the Mall too late to get anywhere near the stage and, therefore, missed the speeches and performances. But it did not matter. I spent three hours walking up and down the Mall just being present: seeing the signs, the marchers, overhearing jubilant conversations and generally absorbing the warm glow of togetherness and optimism that had been so lacking since November 8th. It was, I imagine, how an inauguration was supposed to feel: a sense of hope and of action yet to be taken.
Of course the march is not a solution in and of itself and the structural issues of racism, gender inequality, and economic injustice existed long before Donald Trump announced his campaign. But it felt like a starting point; a coalescing around an amalgam of causes that for too long had been separated. Now, because of the existential threat to all of them represented by Donald Trump, they have started to come together. I hope they stay that way.
Claire Sadar, Muftah Editor, Washington D.C. Women’s March:
After 450 miles of driving, five hours of sleep, and a full day of standing, walking, and marching through the streets of DC, I ended the day sitting around the kitchen table in my friend’s suburban home, eating take out. Between bites, my friend recounted our experience at the march that day to her husband and the two oldest of her four small children. She engaged her eight-year-old in a conversation about why we went to downtown DC that day (to say that everyone should be welcome in America )– and patiently explained what “Islamophobia” and “bigotry” are after he spots the sign I had been carrying.
The children ate quickly and bounced off to play in the next room. My friend, her husband, and I continued to talk about the events of the day. The theme of inclusion and kindness kept coming up again and again. The overarching sentiment that came across in the hundreds of creative signs we saw that day was that everyone should feel safe, welcome, and equally valued in this country — in contrast to the message of the current President and his supporters.
The Women’s March was more than just a symbolic gesture. It taught those of us who participated that strangers can work together to help strangers, peaceful protest is possible on a massive scale, and showed us that there are millions of us who want to see this country progress, instead of regress. We must take the empowerment and encouragement we felt, as part of this historic march, home and continue to contribute in our own individual ways toward making large scale change possible.
Heather Hartlaub, Muftah Editor, London Women’s March:
The Facebook event said that only 30,000 people were planning to attend the Women’s March in London, but in the end, the organizers estimated that over 100,000 people came. From the moment we first arrived, it was packed and we were barely able to move along the edges to try and reach the U.S. Embassy, where the march was scheduled to start. Helicopters circled overhead, and a cheer rippled like a wave through the crowd every few minutes. The mood was electric with people playing drums and whistles; small groups shouting chants; and people talking and laughing as they read the creative signs around them.
About halfway into the route, we reached the top of a hill and tried to find the beginning and end of the group, to figure out where we were. It was a long, straight stretch of road and we could not see an end to the sea of people around us. There were groups of young women, couples of all different kinds, old women on scooters, and children, so many children. Parents brought their sons so they could see all the strong women in their community who should be role models for them, and their daughters to show them they could grow up to be just like those incredible women.
The Women’s March in London was a healing event for me, a balm for the months of sadness, disbelief, and anger I’ve been feeling since the morning I woke up to the election results. It reminded me that even though Trump and his cohort of bigots, misogynists, and racists won the election, they are in the minority.
Sarah Moawad, Muftah Editor, New York City Women’s March:
On my way to join the women’s March in New York City, I was engaging in a conversation with a friend about the purpose of protest. His argument was one I had heard before – that holding a sign and chanting for a few hours could not possibly affect real change. “What is the point?,” he asked, referring to the simultaneous marches taking place throughout the country and around the world.
Protests, sit-ins, and other forms of nonviolent civil disobedience are tried and true tactics, I told him, from the civil rights era to the anti-war movement, women’s suffrage, the anti-apartheid struggle, and countless, countless others. But even more important to me, in some ways, is what protesting means for the people. The sheer number of bodies all driven by a common goal; the support and fraternity and solidarity and kindness; the knowing looks of sad, silent strength shared between strangers; the assurance that we are all in this together, at a time when feelings of fear and uncertainty and powerlessness cripple so many of us; the knowledge that we will fight for one another, especially those most vulnerable among us – that, to me, is the purpose of protest.
Anastasia Vladimirova, Muftah Editor, Dublin Women’s March:
Instead of an estimated couple of hundred participants, the Women’s March in Dublin attracted more than a thousand people. The march had a truly international feel to it, despite being organized for the most part by local civil society and human rights groups. Women, men, queer, gay, lesbian, transgender persons, interracial couples, entire families came to the march. It was so special to see how many women brought their little daughters, dressed up, and excited, some of them carrying placards and signs.
The March in Dublin not only highlighted the intersectionality of various issues at stake in the United States and across the globe today. It also connected one of the most crucial domestic struggles – the fight for abortion rights – with the global pro-choice movement. In Ireland, a large grassroots movement has been working towards amending the country’s constitution so that full reproductive health services, including abortion, become available to the Irish women.
Overall, there was a sense of resilience, solidarity, unity and, most importantly, joy. We had a chance to protest peacefully; we did not have to worry about police attacking us, or arresting or persecuting marchers for their views. In other countries, this feeling of safety is a rare experience for protesters. It is a feeling I relished, as I joined together with other Dubliners to signal our support for social justice for all.
Semira Nikou, Muftah Friend, Women’s March on O’ahu, Hawaii:
On Saturday morning, January 21, 2017, thousands of people and pets began marching from the Hawai‘i State Capitol building, through bursts of rain and drizzle, on sidewalks and grassy lawns, making a roughly one-mile long loop that passed in front of the city hall and several state offices, eventually ending back on the Capitol Rotunda. I went to the Women’s March on O’ahu to show my support for human rights, the environment, and economic justice; to protest hate, policies that fail to acknowledge how historic injustices still shape present realities, and the marginalization of people based on race, sex, gender identity, religion, and nationality. I went to walk in solidarity and unity with marchers across the United States and the rest of the world, in what must be an on-going struggle.
I was not expecting the march to be so awe-inspiring. Color, music, dance, chants, cars honking – the energy was palpable. Marchers smiled and waved shaka signs at the handful of police officers there. Everywhere there were “We the People” posters made for the march, posters on women’s rights (lots of pussycats), indigenous rights, Black Lives Matter. Lots of humor. Some were there for women’s rights, while others, such as an impassioned speaker from Planned Parenthood, sought to highlight the intersectionality of systems of oppression. An estimated 3,000 – 5,000 made it out to the Island of O’ahu march alone, making it one of largest demonstrations in the state’s history (there was even talk of it being the largest). And what an eclectic group! Those marching were young, old, public officials, students, activists, artists, and everything in between and all colors. I asked my mom, who participated in previous protests in Hawai‘i, what was different about this protest. “Diversity and size,” she said.
Maryam Jamshidi, Muftah’s Editor-in-Chief, Washington D.C. Women’s March:
I hate protests. What I mean is, I hate myself in protests. I love watching other people protesting. I even like writing about protests. But, for some reason, I just can’t stand being in one of those thronging mosh pits of strangers. Bad childhood memories maybe.
I managed to overcome my aversion for this weekend’s Women’s March. I put on declaratory clothing (my sweatshirt said “Feminist!”; my hat said something I can’t repeat without embarrassing my mother) and went to the corner of Pennsylvania and 7th St, NW, to do my bit.
Born and raised in the D.C. area, I’d never before seen anything like it. It was a human ocean, and everyone was so happy. AND SO NICE. When I sneezed, twenty people said “God bless you.” On the Mall, I saw a middle-aged man accidentally knock over a young woman, who knocked over another woman, sending them all rolling around on the ground, laughing like lunatics – this, in a city known for being about as friendly and welcoming as a cemetery.
I had to scramble on top of a viewing stand to make sure what I was seeing was really as pervasive as it seemed. It was – singing and dancing and art and laughter were absolutely everywhere.
I couldn’t tell you the average age of the people I saw or whether there were more men or women, or what color or religion folks were, because they were every category and no category. They were so intertwined with one another, on the Mall, down 14th street, around the African American History and Culture Museum, I couldn’t tell who was who. Where a woman ended a man began and a transgender person continued. Black mixed with brown mixed with white mixed with pink mixed with rain drops. The young sat on the shoulders of the old who walked along side the physically disabled who stood taller than the Washington Monument and its rings of fog.
Now that the march is over, everyone is asking “what comes next.” That question matters, of course. But, it also misses the great gift this march gave to everyone who was lucky enough to be caught in its embrace – the strength that comes from being in community with hundreds of thousands of people, who may not share precisely every conviction you do, but to whom you now belong and who, like you, have been inspired to press for the most basic and important principles – justice and freedom and respect for all.
Where we go from here depends on this moment. Without this communal experience there would be no “next” to strive for. So, we should savor it for what it is and thank Donald Trump for giving us no choice but to create our own public square, unmediated by politicians or journalists or celebrities – just the people, together in solidarity, sharing in the values that are necessary to a country that is truly by and for ALL of its people.