By Mariah McCloskey
Numerous Seton Hall students, faculty, and alumni were among the hundreds of thousands that descended on Washington, D.C., for the Women’s March, a protest against the rhetoric and policy proposals of the 45th president of the United States, who had been inaugurated only a day before.
“Upon arriving I thought, ‘Power.’ It is incredible how powerful and participatory this is,” said Dr. Judith Stark, a professor emerita of philosophy and the director of the Environmental Studies Program at Seton Hall.
“I have been marching since the civil rights in the 1960s , the anti-Vietnam march, and the women against nuclear war march, but the Women’s March was the most powerful,” Dr. Stark said. “The energy and diversity and positive attitudes were overwhelming.”
According to the march’s mission statement, participants aimed to “send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world, that women’s rights are human rights.”
“There was one sign that literally stopped me in my tracks. It was a painting of President Trump inappropriately grabbing the Statue of Liberty similarly to how he described grabbing women in the leaked audio recording that came out a while ago,” Avery Bachman-Rhodes, an undecided freshman, said. “That visual in that moment overpowered all the comedy about our nation’s current situation. It really made clear to me what we as an American people have decreed as acceptable.”
Organizers began planning the march on November 9, 2016, the day after Trump’s election, as a response to Trump’s campaign rhetoric, which they found “divisive, racist, and misogynistic,” according to NPR. According to Smithsonian magazine, half a million spectators lined the streets of Washington on January 21 while marchers displayed creative protest signs.
“I loved the signs that were a play on ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ and represented a woman’s right to their own reproductive health choices. I also laughed at many, and respected the amount of signs dedicated to Carrie Fisher in the form of Princess Leia and the Resistance,” said Liza Bell, a senior Diplomacy major, referring to events in the Star Wars film franchise.
The organizers chose to call the event the Women’s March on Washington after the historic civil rights March on Washington, a rally on the National Mall where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. It was originally billed as the Million Woman March, a tribute to the 1997 Million Woman March in Philadelphia, in which hundreds of thousands of African-American women participated.
“I was struck by the different levels and types of feminism demonstrated. Sometimes you become blinded and are not able to see that advocacy such as Black Lives Matter and LGBT incarceration rates do matter in all aspects of feminism,” Bell said.
The march has been compared to the Women’s Suffrage Parade on March 3, 1913, which was the first suffragist march in Washington, D.C. Organized by the suffragist Alice Paul for the National American Woman Suffrage Association , it took place one day before the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson, with more than 5,000 women marching on Pennsylvania Avenue for the right to vote.
“This effort is not anti-Trump,” said Tamika Mallory, a co-founder of the march. “This is pro-women. This is a continuation of a struggle women have been dealing with for a very long time. In this moment, we are connecting and being as loud as possible.”
The march was unable to proceed to the lawn of the White House, as was originally planned, because of the large amount of people. According to The Washington Post, Chris Geldart, the director of the city’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, said, “They are going to tell the crowd they can go to the Ellipse if they want, but they are not doing the normal parade route, there is too many people.”
Sister marches occurred worldwide, with 408 in the United States and 168 in other countries. A sister march in Chicago was canceled due to high turnout. “Our march route is flooded. There is no safe way to march. We are just going to sing and dance and make our voices heard here,” an organizer told some of the attendees, according to The Chicago Tribune.
“We want to ensure that this country knows women are not happy,” Mallory, the march co-founder, said to NPR. “And when we get angry, change happens. We make things happen.”
“I think the most miraculous thing was that everywhere you went, you saw supporters, allies, and Americans in all regards,” Bell said.
The same sentiments were shared at rest stops as participants made their way home. “Everyone at the rest stops and on the buses were coming from the march,” Bell said. “Even our bus driver told us, ‘Now we are in a highly charged city and I want everyone to respect each other’s views.’ His speech was followed by applause and cheers.”
Rhodes, the freshman, said she was in the process of making a “pussyhat,” or the pink knitted hats worn by many at the march. The Pussyhat Project was a nationwide effort to knit pink hats to be worn at the march. The name refers to the cat ears on the hats in an attempt to reclaim the term “pussy,” which was used by President Trump in a scandalous 2005 recording. Production of the hats led to a shortage of pink yarn nationwide.