I went to the Women’s March on NYC, and it was amazing! Some stories and pictures and thoughts here.
(First off, I know there aren’t solely positive things related to the march; there’s the “where was all this enthusiasm on voting day?” thought, and the “where were all these people at the Black Lives Matter marches?” thought, and the “don’t be so smug about how peaceful it all was; it’s mostly because so many of the marchers were white!” thought, and those all have merit, but I don’t have anything deep to say about them, and I’m mostly going to talk just about my experience here, and not try to draw any Big Conclusions. Overall I think it was great, to whatever extent there are problematic ties.)
Here are a bazillion photos (and some videos!) that I took, in a Google Photos Album thing that I hope that link lets you get to and all.
I drove to Croton-Harmon and took Metro North in, as I always do. (The little boy was at work, and M is not good with crowds, and the little daughter bizarrely lives in Manhattan now, so it was just me travelling.)
The station had various small groups of women and other people, wearing lots of pink and examining the train schedules and carrying signs. One woman was still knitting a Pussy Hat out of screaming pink yarn; I don’t know if she expected to get it done on the train ride or not!
Saturday morning trains into the City are usually pretty empty, but this one (the 9:45 express, I think it was) was about 10 minutes late, and when it did arrive it was already pretty much packed. Most of the people were on the way to the March, and when a new pussy-hatted group passed by in the aisle, already-seated marchers would cheer.
I ended up riding in the vestibule between cars (which is always, non-ironically, fun), and even that was packed!
Here we are arriving at Grand Central; lots of us! Can’t see the entire crowdstream because of the awesome Pussy Bites Back sign, but hey, it’s an awesome sign.
Pussy in its various forms and meanings was definitely a Big Theme of the march. Lots of cat images (and hats), quite a few uterus images, and a significant (though smaller) number of vagina images, pretty much all of which made me happy. (Keeping in mind, at the same time, that not all people, or even all women, have cats, or uteruses, or vaginas.)
One of the chants (and I’ll say more about the chants, I’m sure) that I think I heard only once, was a nice simple call-and-response of “Pussy!” “Power!” “Pussy!” “Power!”, led by a woman standing on some piece of civic infrastructure by the side of the march; after the chant ended (with the usual loud Wooting), I heard the male person standing up there with her say “That was great!”.
I went out of Grand Central (see the album linked above for some photos from there; it wasn’t as packed because people were arriving and then as quickly streaming off toward various gathering places for the march, but the crowd was still impressive), and turned East on 42nd Street, intending to head for 46th and 2nd, where the DSA was supposed to be meeting up.
On the way I realized that with my “Resist.” tee shirt covered by my scarf and flannel overshirt and hoodie I wasn’t very visible as a marcher, and I wanted to be (should have planned farther ahead and commissioned my own ping pussy hat from M!). And Lo and Behold there were enterprising NYC street vendors selling Hello Kitty ear muffs in bright pastel colors, so I got one. Admire my tiny-eyed revolutionary look!
Laugh if you will :) but I got many compliments on these earmuffs throughout the day.
I made my way toward 46th and 2nd as the crowd gradually thickened, and only when I was very close did I realize that (a) it mattered a whole lot which of the four corners of that intersection they’d intended, and (b) I was not actually going to be able to find the DSA area, if any, as it was getting impossible to move.
In fact it was pretty much almost impossible to move for over an hour, and no one knew quite what was going on, but it was still very convivial and positive. One older woman felt light-headed and sat down on the sidewalk, and we around her carefully made sure that she was not stepped on by the crowd, and that when she tried to get up but still felt bad, someone summoned a dayglo-vested march volunteer, who was able to push a path though the crowd to get her to somewhere more comfortable to sit.
Now and then a snake of people intent on moving in some particular direction or other for some reason would pass through near me, and sometimes I would move a few spaces by joining the tail-end of the train. I had a vague notion of heading up toward 48th Street, where it might be less crowded, and looking for the Quakers who were supposedly meeting there, or even skirting the crowd and looking for the Buddhists on 39th, but it was becoming clear that that was unlikely to be feasible.
Also now and then someone would pull themselves up onto the little footing two or three feet off the ground offered by a nearby lamp-post, and announce that they couldn’t see anything in particular happening from up there, either.
In retrospect, I think what was going on was that people were speaking and stuff over at the rally area on I dunno maybe 47th between 1st and 2nd, but only a few thousand people could actually here them, and us over at the intersection on 2nd could hear only occasional cheering, which we always hoped was the march starting, but probably wasn’t.
Eventually I followed enough little trains of people to reach a clearer place (whew!) and breath a bit, and climb up onto a a wide place in a wall and get a better view of where I’d been. Here is that intersection, from I think 47th Street between 2nd and 3rd (but closer to 2nd), looking at the 47th Street and 2nd Avenue intersection shortly before, or maybe shortly after, the marching proper began:
There is a small marching band perhaps off the edge of the picture to the right, and the rally and speeches and stuff are happening out of sight in the distance center left.
While trapped in the waiting crowd I saw the only thing at all resembling a counter-protest that day. You can’t really see it in this picture very well, and I’m too lazy to do any post-processing to make it easier :) but if you move your eye up the center of the three columns of windows on the brown building-face slightly to the left of center there, you’ll see a small bright dot which is an American flag draped out an apartment window, and if you enlarge the picture or squint hard, you may see on the upper part of the window a little blue sign with something white on it.
We theorized down in the crowd there that it might be a Trump sign. The people in that apartment would stick their heads out occasionally, and the crowd below would all whoop. Of course we also all whooped whenever anyone stuck their head out any other window and someone noticed, and any time we heard a vehicle honk somewhere, and any time we heard cheering coming from the rally area, so it was a low bar. :) As counter-protests go, anyway, it was very mild and polite. As far as we could tell from the ground anyway.
I strolled down 47th to 3rd Avenue, enjoying the ability to like swing my arms, and discovered that that part of 3rd Avenue was closed as well, I guess because people bored with waiting had been marching along it, and the NYPD was just trying to reopen it. I found a little sandwich place that wasn’t jammed with hungry marchers, and got myself a sandwich and juice for lunch and a little coffee for after, and sat in a little park and ate.
Somewhere in there I’d picked up an abandoned NYCLU “Dissent is Patriotic” sign (typical of my to have a meta-sign about the protest itself rather than about specific things we were protesting!) and someone had offered me a rainbow-heart sticker which I’d stuck on, so here is my picnic.
When I’d finished eating and strolled back toward the intersection, it looked like people were actually moving! So I got myself into the crowd, and in probably less than another hour :) the various streams of people coming together had merged into one, and we were actually marching! At a detectable pace!
There is a picture of me actually marching. I don’t know who the young woman next to me, or pretty much anyone in any of these pictures, is, but we were all marching together, which was excellent.
We marched (in the sense of walking very slowly while carrying signs and now and then chanting and whooping) down 2nd Avenue, from 47th Street to 42nd street. This took awhile!
There were lots of great signs, and great chants. There were some great little kids in a restaurant with big glass windows on the second floor of some building, who put up supportive signs facing out their window at us.
We chanted “Black Lives Matter”, and “Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go”, and “Show me what Democracy looks like!” / “This is what Democracy looks like!” (my favorite call-and-response, I think, great rhythm to it), and this wonderful one where the women would do “My body, my choice!” and the men would respond “Her body, her choice!”, and the Soprano / Tenor sort of alternation was really moving.
(Late in the march the possibly-inebriated folks with the “Trump hates puppies” signs tried to get a “Trump hates puppies” chant going, but it didn’t really take.)
The turn onto 42nd was slow; I suspect there was another stream of people entering from East on 42nd or South on 2nd. But the view on 42nd Street was amazing. I didn’t capture a great picture of it, but all of 42nd from 2nd to 5th was wall-to-wall marchers, and it was a Thing.
That gives some idea: the bridge just visible in the distance center is the Park Avenue “viaduct” right at Grand Central, and the march stretches to it, and beyond into the vanishing distance to Fifth. Pretty amazing!
Here is the march passing under the bridge quite some time later. The bridge itself was lined with people cheering at the march, holding up signs and hanging banners in support, and so on.
And then we continued, and continued, and continued. :)
Under the bridge, past Vanderbilt, across Madison, and to 5th Avenue, where we turned North toward the Fortress of Evil — ehrm, that is, Trump Tower.
I was getting pretty tired by this time, and it turns out it’s harder to walk really slowly than to walk at an ordinary pace.
Interestingly, as we went up 5th, there were barricades between the marchers in the street and the onlookers and random other folks on the sidewalks (including the much-photographed “sync up our periods” lady above), and the sidewalks were comparatively uncrowded. The barricades paused at the intersections, and had openings here and there between intersections. (I don’t think this was true on 42nd street, where there were a few pointless-looking barricades just scattered here and there, and the march was pretty much wall-to-wall.)
So on 5th, if one got sufficiently tired of walking slowly in the gathering dusk, one could slip off of the street onto the sidewalk at a pause or break in the barricades, and walk along at a faster pace for a big (still carrying one’s sign, wearing one’s earmuffs, whooping, etc), and then slip back into the march a short-block later.
That was nice!
Somewhere in there, maybe 46th Street or so on the way up 5th Avenue, the police came in and held back the marchers a few feet ahead of me, and stretched blue tape across the street. (Big black smiling cop sidestepped back and forth on the other side of the tape, making the point that while he couldn’t actually stop us if we insisted on continuing to walk, he would in a friendly way try to; or something.)
It turned out they were doing this because some people in cars wanted to cross the road!
Ha ha ha, can you imagine?
The blue tape let maybe a few dozen cards and trucks and buses go by, some of them taking pictures out the window, and we whooped at them. A marcher near me claimed that at least one was a taxi with at least one passenger in it, and we speculated how long they’d been sitting there trying to cross 5th, with the meter running. Silly autos!
After not very long at all really, they took the tape away again and we whooped and marched quickly up the several yards to where the rest of the march had advanced to in the interim.
And then at 54th Street there was a guy with a megaphone (video📹) thanking us for coming out and saying that this is what Democracy is all about, and also telling us that 5th Avenue was blocked off at 55th Street, and this was therefore the end of the march, and we were not going to get to Trump Tower tonight, so we should go away now, or if we really wanted to we could go up one more block and then go away.
He was wearing an EMS jacket and a hat with a logo, and there were some people with march volunteer vests by him. When I stopped megaphoning I asked him who he was, and he said he was just a regular guy with a megaphone, and I asked if he was EMS, and he said he was with some neighborhood ambulance (I think?) service, and just one of the volunteers tonight.
(I wouldn’t be surprised if NYPD hadn’t asked him, directly or indirectly, to be there doing that, so that they wouldn’t have to.)
Pretty much everybody wanted to continue, so we got up to 55th Street, where the stream was splitting east and west and people were grumbling somewhat and looking past the police barricades in the direction of the Tower. The chant turned into a very rousing version of “Welcome to your first day, we won’t go away, welcome to your first day, we won’t go away” (more video📹).
However, we were nice, and didn’t make trouble for the police, and the march more or less ended there, at a row of march volunteers (directly in contact with the marchers) and a barricade, and a row of police (not so much directly in contact with the marchers), police cars, and another barricade, and so on.
Here is a symbolic picture of a single Guardian of Order, making sure that ordinary citizens cannot get too close to the seat of power of the person they are protesting:
(Of course said person was probably not around his NYC stronghold anyway, being busy off in Washington DC disgracing himself utterly.)
I went and stood by the outer barricade next to the rightmost volunteer for awhile, watching the people and taking pictures and chanting and whooping, vaguely speculating about how it would go if the crowd decided to go to Trump Tower after all, and helpfully helping open and close the opening in the barricade that the police were using to let authorized people in and out of the outer security layer.
Eventually I stopped doing that, and walked East a bit along 55th Street, looking at the amazing variety of signs that people had left leaning against the barricades and spread out on the street. So much wit and passion and creativity! There is talk of someone making like a coffeetable book of photos of signs, proceeds to benefit Planned Parenthood or something; I hope that comes to be. Here are just a few of mine; more in the album linked above.
I wandered back to 5th Avenue itself, and the tail of the march had arrived and left, and there was a row of shiny NYPC motorcycles slowly coming up. The police started clearing people from the intersection, and I slipped over to the West side of it, to see what was up over there. They moved barricades around some, amid a bit confusion about exactly what they were doing and who ought to be moved where and stuff. (I asked one NYPD if we were supposed to be like going somewhere else instead, and he just smiled and shrugged.)
Eventually they moved everyone out of 5th Avenue and reopened that and cars started flowing again, to much whooping (video📹). Then they urged everyone on 42nd near 5th to get onto the sidewalks, and started putting up new barricades stuff. Eventually half a dozen of them walked along 42nd toward 6th, side by side, each holding a barricade at waist level, to sort of push back anyone still in the street. It was more an expression of intent rather than an actual pushing, though, since there weren’t very many people in the street anyway, and it would have been trivial to just get into the sidewalk as they went by and then step into the street again (at least one person did, to no obvious effect).
A smallish number of people were still standing on the corner, chanting away, including one rather manic young white guy with a buzzcut who was jumping up and down and pumping his fist in a worrying manner, and a person next to him in a Guy Fawkes mask (the only mask I recall seeing in the march). But neither of them proved to be obviously agents provocateurs or Black Bloc folks, at least not while I was there.
So we chanted “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A.!” for awhile (video📹, with me doing just the “No Trump!” part because hoarse by that time), and they moved barricades more so that we could stand in a little area on the edge of the street and walking people could walk on the sidewalk. 42nd Street got fully reopened at some point in there.
I asked another NYPD officer if things were now back to about how they usually were, or if this was still post-march stuff.
“We’ll have to see,” he said, roughly, “it’s just Day One!”
“Oh,” I said, “that’s true, but hasn’t the sidewalk been blocked off and stuff near Trump Tower for awhile now?”
“Yeah,” he said, “but nothing like this,” nodding generally toward the still-chanting people.
So that was interesting.
Eventually I decided that was sort of over, so I went out of the barricaded area and walked around. Nearby was the only property damage I saw all night:
Not at all clear it happened during the March, though; them bus signs are always getting broken off by one thing and another.
Next I wandered over to 42nd and 6th or somewhere, and got a Ham and Cheese and Egg crepe and some water for dinner from a cart guy.
And that’s pretty much the end of the March story for this posting.
I texted the little daughter and we had some coffee and dessert, and eventually a sleepy me headed back home on ol’ Metro North.
It was a great time, and I’m glad that I went.
One march, even one day of marches enormous enough to really annoy Certain Thin-Skinned Narcissists, won’t solve our problems by any means (and boy do we have problems omg don’t get me started), but I am somewhat hopeful that it will give people a taste of activism, and a feeling of hope, and ideas about solidarity and involvement, and that as a result things will not be as bad as they would have been otherwise.
And for me personally, being in the City, being with literally hundreds of thousands of like-minded people in the City, expressing support for liberty, equality, justice, love, and all that sort of good thing, and expressing opposition to lies, oppression, sexism, racism, hatred, inequality, and like that, was a really, really good time.