The Rapidian

Return from the Women's March brings new perspectives

An attendee of the Women's March on Washington returns to Grand Rapids feeling both inspired and energized.
Gathering at the Washington Monument

Gathering at the Washington Monument /Allison Bannister

Underwriting support from:
Crowds in the Metro

Crowds in the Metro /Cali Johnson

Signs left outside the Trump International Hotel

Signs left outside the Trump International Hotel /Cali Johnson


In the days before the Women’s March on Washington, I started receiving messages from family members and friends expressing concerns for my safety. Those concerns heightened on Friday, when activists became violent, reckless, and unlawful in their inauguration day protests.

I assured my loved ones that these protesters were reacting directly to the day’s events and that they were acting in outright defiance of the principles outlined by the Women’s March organizers. I assured myself that if I were wrong, I would secure a place among pacifists and simply not become caught in the middle of any destructive, mob-like behavior.

Still, as I dismissed their worries, I had my own. As I wrote in my last article, I imagined great discomfort: with my transportation, with my fellow passengers, with the massive crowds, and with the many unknowns to come. I even envisioned wanting to push my co-marchers out of my personal space.

In all the negatives I anticipated, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The adrenaline that had been percolating in my chest all day Friday dissolved the moment I took my seat on the bus.

Turns out, the only person who was loud was our bus driver. And, if anyone smelled, it may have been me, as I continue to try to make a go of this natural deodorant thing.

Yes, the metros and streets were crowded, cramped, and congested—but I have never enjoyed so much the accidental toe crushing, butt butting, rib elbowing, and awkward eye contact making. “Excuse me” pleas and apologies were some of the loudest words spoken that day.

Sure, there was anger, but it was largely aimed at policies, not people. And, there were protests, but they were against ideas, not outcomes. And that fear I spoke of before? It wasn’t even present. There was only calm, confidence, resolve, and intention. Intention to convey that we won’t accept or condone inequality, brutality, incivility, exclusion, bigotry, intolerance, or aggression. Or hate. Because, yes, we need less hate for sure.

Did I ever shove anyone away? Or want to? No. In fact, many times I pulled my neighbors closer to me, and put my hands into those of strangers I’d only met a few hours earlier. We all did our best to ensure that not one of us was abandoned—and to protect those who may have needed a little extra space or a moment of sanctuary.

I hugged, I smiled, I cried, and I exchanged compassionate, knowing glances with those around me. For a brief, 36-hour period, I experienced the exhilaration that comes from complete harmony and unconditional cooperation. I have known nothing like it in my life.

But, while it most definitely happened, it became little more than a fantasy once I stepped off that bus—and back into the vitriol slinging from all sides. The March was a bubble of sorts, and while it was soft and cushy and oh-so soothing, it was a place none of us could or should remain. Not when there’s still work to do.

So here we are. Back in reality. For now, we can say that we sent our message. We can draw comfort in knowing that millions across the globe shared in this message. I don’t think any one of us believes that our demonstrations will stop after this event. We will have to continue to strive every day to protect our rights and stand up for those who are more vulnerable than ourselves. 

But, somehow, we must also seek to understand those who don’t understand us, and find ways to communicate with them in productive ways. For me, this is the next big fight.

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