The march began for me in Bethesda, Maryland; waiting in line for the metro.
I was amazed by the line wrapping around the area of the metro entrance. It was both orderly and cheerfully and entirely self-organized by the marchers. As we stood in line we chanted and whooped at cars that honked while passing. It took about an hour from the time we got on the back of the line to the time we made it onto the metro.
Being on the metro was far different than any experience on the subway I’ve ever had. People were crammed onto the train, but rather than cursing under their breath like I am used to seeing, they were asking their neighbors if they felt comfortable or if they needed food and water.
Once off the metro, we headed toward the corner of third and fourth on Independence. When we were walking toward the center of the march where everyone was crowded, we passed a lot of stern-looking police officers whp wouldn’t make eye contact with anybody. My aunt asked one of the officers why they wouldn’t smile, and he offered to take a selfie with her smiling on his phone.
After a couple hours of navigating crowds, my family and I reached what felt like the center of the march. There were people crammed in the streets just standing and waiting for the march to begin, but there were too many people to move in any direction.
We heard police honking and asking us to move, and all of a sudden a giant train of police cars and bikes drove straight through the crowd. We asked the police why they were attempting to drive directly through such a dense crowd, hoping that they were going to begin leading the march, but they gave assorted answers about medical emergencies and maintaining peace.
Around noon, about a half hour after the march was scheduled to start, people were getting very antsy because we weren’t sure what was going on. We were too far from the stage to see any of the speeches, so people were getting nervous that the march had left without us or had been cancelled. There were people that had climbed into trees, on platforms and on street lights to protest, so we asked them what was going on since all we could see in every direction were bodies.
They were really the ones who helped the actual marching start. People on the ground would call up to people in the trees and say “Tree people! Where do we go?” And the people in the trees would direct us toward the mall and then to the left, so we would thank them and start the chant: “March to the mall and make a left! March to the mall and make a left!”
When the crowd started moving it was amazing. It was a massive train of people all working together to move forward. I mean that figuratively but also literally. It’s hard to start moving when there are that many people crowded together and no one in charge because everyone has to be going in the same direction at the same time. When it finally worked, however, it was truly beautiful.
One of my favorite chants was “Show me what democracy looks like? This is what democracy looks like!” It was so true. Being in the center of a monumental march that began through social media felt like true democracy. Each person was an essential voice. Some of my other favorite chants were “Tiny hands! Stupid hair! Stay out of my underwear!”, “Who are we? The popular vote!”, “No hate! No fear! Everyone is welcome here!” and “Racist, sexist, anti-gay! Donald Trump, go away!”
I had to pull myself away from the crowd when I finally headed off toward the metro. Even being in the metro waiting for a train to come was amazing. I could sometimes hear people in the distance screaming excitedly and the sound would get louder and closer. It would wash over me and I would join in screaming, and then it would continue on. It was like the wave at a sports game except way cooler. As I left the D.C. area, I felt overwhelmingly hopeful because I knew that I wasn’t done fighting.
It is just the beginning.