I handed my phone to a tall person who was standing nearby and asked him to take a picture of my friends and me. We had ridden the biodiesel bus together from Durham to Raleigh for the Women’s March on Raleigh. As our bus pulled into downtown, we saw cars and people streaming in from every direction. It was the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th president of the United States, and progressive people all over the world were mad. When we got out of our bus and joined the crowd of 17-20,000 people assembled on Fayetteville Street, we found ourselves in a sea of humanity. Men, women, children, and babies—like eleven-month-old Frieda in our small group, riding along with her mother. There were so many of us that it took almost forty-five minutes for those of us in the middle of the crowd to start moving after the folks in front began the six-block walk to Moore Square. In the photo you can see our small group, including my longtime friend, BJ, and three colleagues in their 30s—Jenny, Andrea, and Frieda’s mother Rebecca. Other RCWMS volunteers and board members were scattered through the marching throng. All morning, I kept asking other women my age or older, “Did you think we would be doing this again after so many years?”
This march came forty-eight years after the student protests against the Vietnam war that took place during my freshman year of college; forty-four years after Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in our land; and thirty-five years after the last big North Carolina march in support of the Equal Rights Amendment.
The Women’s March on Raleigh emerged as a sister march to the Women’s March on Washington DC. The DC march’s mission statement reads:
We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families–recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.
The DC march, like the one in Raleigh, drew many more participants than organizers expected. Organizers anticipated 200,000, but the DC crowd numbered at least 450,000. In addition, over 3,000,000 people around the US participated in over 500 locations. They were joined by hundreds of thousands more, with demonstrations on every continent. Together we were speaking up for women’s rights and protesting the new administration’s agenda on so many fronts: their cabinet appointments, their promise to repeal Obamacare, our desire to protect LGBTQ people, immigrants, public education, workers rights, and a woman’s rights to choose.
This was baby Frieda’s first march. We suspect it will not be her last.