Bodies packed into barreling Metro trains and buses. Charter buses carried people from across the country. Independence Ave became a floodway for the men, women, and children that poured in from around the globe to march on Washington.
That was the scene described by three marchers that were just drops in the torrent of people that joined the Women’s March on Washington on January 21, 2017.
UGA student Shannon Duffy, a journalism and geography double major, described getting off the Metro and seeing “more people than I’d ever seen before in one place in my life.”
Descending off the train and into the thick of the march, Duffy describes getting, for all intents and purposes, stuck due to the massive amounts of people attempting to make it to the march.
“I remember just looking around…and there was an older woman next to me who was already crying just because of the amount of support. She couldn’t believe it.”
The organizers for the event confirmed that over 1 million people showed up to march in Washington D.C. on that Saturday, and those men and women made up nearly a fifth of the people estimated to have marched in sister events around the globe.
The mission was simple. The Women’s March on Washington set the following goal: “We stand together in solidarity…recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”
There’s no denying that this movement was born from the cold front created by the rhetoric of the most recent election cycle to take place in the United States. The movement was made up of people and their individual voices—men, women, and children from different places and different walks of life—as diverse as the cast of characters described in the Billy Joel classic Piano Man.
“When I hear the person who is going to be in the most powerful position, our most powerful position, using words that are degrading and taking away the quality of all people, that’s not okay,” says Tracey Wyatt, the team leader for the East Georgia Division of the Women’s March on Washington-Georgia Chapter, “I know as counselor what the power of words are.”
While the rhetoric is arguably the driving force behind the creation of the Women’s March on Washington, the organizers of the march were very direct in stating that the goal was to combat perceived threats to all human rights.
To reframe the words of Tomi Lahren, a conservative commentator for The Blaze, “The snowflakes were so taken aback…they felt they must do something.”
“We are here. We’re on fire. Living in a world. That’s on fire. Feet on the ground. Not backing down,” Alicia Keys chanted to those gathered around the main stage on Independence Ave.
The marchers raised their fists to accent the words as they chanted back in a call and response. During her brief speech, Keys poetically names her reasons for marching.
Her motivations are common discussion points in a variety of venues from the dinner table to the political science class displaced in the Poultry Science building on the campus of the University of Georgia: education, the environment, healthcare, religious freedom, and equality.
The Athens-Clarke County Unified Government estimated that 130,000 people lived in Athens-Clarke County as of 2014. They also reported that females made up 52.5 percent of the population, and foreign born residents of the county represented five different continents.
According to the Association of Religion Data Archives, there are at least six different religions practiced in Clarke County including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Baha’i.
The U.S. Department of Labor reported that women in the state of Georgia working full time or salaried earned a weekly average of $692, while men earned an average of $816 each week.
The issues taken up by protestors of the Women’s March on Washington are issues that hit close to home not because Athens is a caricature of a college town but because Athens-Clarke county is that diverse community described in the mission statement for the march.
The Women’s March characterized “immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, [and] survivors of sexual assault” as people worthy of marching for.
“It was great to be reminded of how many thoughtful, caring people that are really committed to inclusivity as opposed to one person is better than the other and deserves more,” says Amy Heath, clinical assistant professor and program coordinator in the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the University of Georgia.
Heath says that she marched in honor of her daughter.
“I just want her to be fiercely who she is,” says Heath, “Because I’m marching for my daughter, I’m marching for all women. I’m marching for all people…When it’s injustice for one person, it’s injustice for everyone.”
Pink, cat-eared knit hats created bright pops of color across the overcast, winter Washington D.C. day. The inspiration for this particular statement was easy to pick up on.
“Grab them by the p—y,” says President Donald Trump in that controversial 2005 video that came to light in the Washington Post.
Much of the aforementioned cold front of rhetoric was centered around the many forms of communication used by President Donald Trump during his journey to the White House.
When asked if given the chance to tell or ask Donald Trump one thing, the three marchers interviewed for this article responded with the following statements:
“He needs to start listening to other people’s voices,” says Shannon Duffy.
“All I know is you can’t tell me that you have integrity inside of you and your words don’t reflect it. If that’s the break down in the integrity between what’s inside of you and the words you’re speaking, then you have no integrity,” says Tracey Wyatt.
“I would love to see him try to learn or listen or ask questions about why did so many women and men and children and elderly people and people with different ability levels show up so you could see us. I would ask him to ask us and try to seek and understand,” says Amy Heath.
For these women that call Athens home, packing up and heading to Washington D.C. to participate in the Women’s March on Washington was not exclusive to access to birth control, defending organizations like Planned Parenthood, or slamming the idea of a Muslim registry.
Succinctly articulated by Wyatt is the greater issue at the heart of the march. She says, “It doesn’t matter what position of power you are in, if we don’t have the decency to treat all human beings as equal there is no democracy to build on.”
The “Snowflakes” did not depend on television cameras or social media platforms to promote this mission. They choose instead to board buses and planes and trains, to gather on Independence Ave in Washington D.C. on a January Saturday, because, to revisit Lahren’s critical words from her Final Thoughts segment, “They felt they must do something.”
By: Gracie Thompson