I turned down opportunities to attend the Trump inauguration. I’m glad Trump won, but not ready to celebrate the guy. Plus, I’ve always found these events dull.
Protest marches, on the other hand, can be interesting. I decided to attend today’s women’s protest in Washington, D.C.
The first order of business was to find a place to check my privilege, presumably in exchange for a ticket with a number so I could reclaim it. I couldn’t find the privilege-checking station though. In the end, I decided to hang on to my privilege on the theory that I might not get it back.
I shudder to think about trying to blog without my privilege.
The next order of business was to get a sense of the protest by reading the signs being carried. This was often a challenge because many of them were wordy.
I could only read the first few words of some before the bearer moved away. For example, “Men judge women by their looks. . .” and “After eight years of a black president. . .” It’s fun to fill in what might come next.
The men in the crowd, and there were a great many of us, tended to carry more succinct signs. Some contained just one word, for example “Resist” and, my favorite, “Nope.”
One placard said “Small hands; short term.” Another said: “Too much sh*t for one sign.” That’s how I have felt for the past eight years.
I began to see women with signs saying “the future is feminist” and “the future is female.” Will the future be verbose?
I passed by Trump’s new hotel a little after noon. The front entrance was blocked by bars.
The protesters who passed by didn’t seem bothered by the hotel. The mood of the crowd was festive. The only visible anger at this point was in the signs.
Things were more spiky on Constitution Avenue where a pre-march (I guess you could call it) was taking place. It was here that I first encountered the “pussy” theme. Protesters carried signs like “This pussy grabs back.” Some made meowing noises as they marched by.
Unlike the crowd I’d been walking with, almost all of the protesters in this march were women. They were shouting the ever-popular “our bodies” chants.
Oddly, the loudest such chant was led by an African-American male with a booming voice. “Male” and “female” are just constructs, though. Who knows how the guy-looking chant leader gender-identifies?
I headed up 12th Street towards Independence Avenue, the area where I understood the main protest march would pass. I wanted to be close enough to get a good sense of the rally but not so close as to be penned in.
I heard the sound of speeches and moved forward towards the Department of Agriculture so I could make out what was being said. Big mistake. I was penned in — port-o-potties on one side (with substantial lines in front of them) and retaining wall over the expressway on the other.
The crowd was surging towards Independence Avenue. For a moment I feared another Hillborough disaster. “Died when crushed against port-o-potty during protest he didn’t believe in.” That’s a fate too absurd for even an existentialist to contemplate.
Fortunately, the crowd soon realized that there was no place to go, and the pushing subsided. However, at least two young women said they were having (non-Trump related) panic attacks. Their friends were trying to move them through the pack.
I don’t know what a panic attack looks like, but at a minimum these women needed fresh air. It was getting to the point where I could have used some too. The young women eventually passed by, but I don’t know whether they made it out of the pack.
Stuck in this mob and barely able even to shuffle my feet, I had the opportunity to analyze the demographics. The crowd in this area of 12th Street was overwhelmingly White — closer to 100 percent than to 95. Overall, I estimate that between 90 and 95 percent of the protesters I saw today are white.
Women outnumbered men, of course. I think about 70 percent (give or take 5 percent) of the protesters I saw are female (or could reasonably be viewed as such).
All age groups up to at least 70 years old were well represented among women. The men tended to be on the young side. Most of them spoke in the tones and cadences of the new, new class with which those of us who live in the Washington area have become familiar.
It was a good-natured crowd, the unpleasantness of being trapped notwithstanding. Except for the signs, which pushed the “pussy theme” more than I cared for, there was nothing I found objectionable.
I heard almost no talk about Trump and little about contemporary politics. Instead, I heard “war stories” about protest marches from days of yore. One woman boosted that she marched against the Vietnam War in 1969. Another topped that with tales from a New York anti-war march in 1965.
I had them all beat, having participated in the great civil rights march of 1963. I didn’t say anything, though. My privilege hadn’t been checked and I was afraid it might show.
We were penned in for about 45 minutes. We couldn’t hear the speeches, only the sound of them and occasional applause. Word circulated that someone from the show “Madam Secretary” was giving a speech. I suspect that the only thing worse than not being able to hear that speech would have been to hear it.
By now, it was around 1:15. The march was supposed to have started at 1:00. Perhaps it had in some areas, but we weren’t moving. Many in the crowd began chanting “start the march.”
About fifteen minutes later, we began to move. We had been penned in for about 45 minutes.
The march seemed to be a massive affair, but I couldn’t get any kind of handle on the number of protesters.
The chants during the march were all over the place with small segments of the marchers picking up on their pet theme — e.g. immigration and “war on women.”
The loudest chant I heard was “This is what democracy looks like.” I suppose democracy does look something like this, at least in big cities on our two coasts. Anyway, I’m glad to live in a country where such marches can occur.
The signs were all over the place too, with many too wordy for me to read. Pussy-themed signs were in the plurality. Oh for the days of “A woman’s place is in the House. . .and the Senate.”
I finally saw a few openly-Marxist signs such as “Capitalism is the crisis.” I wish I had realized this during my Marxist years as I eagerly awaited the final crisis of capitalism.
You could say, “we are in the crisis we have been waiting for.” Donald Trump might well agree.
I left the march around 2:00 and thus never heard an actual speech. It’s probably just as well.
Later, when I was having lunch near Dupont Circle, a protester told me that the march had to be re-routed by the police because the crowd was too big for the planned route. I wouldn’t be surprised.
At the end of the day, this march reminded me of the anti-Bush, anti-war protests of the last decade, only larger (I think). From what I could tell, it was populated mostly by idealistic but not very well-educated young people and by decent but incorrigibly liberal older folks.
A successful Trump presidency, if there is one, won’t change many minds among those who were marching today. Indeed, their understanding of success in a presidency differs radically from mine.
However, a successful Trump presidency might well change the minds of millions of young people who dislike the new president but didn’t march. Given how liberal the younger demographic groups are, the the fates of conservatism and the Republican party arguably are riding on the presidency of a man who wasn’t a Republican until recently and who may not be particularly conservative now.