On Saturday, January 19, walking towards the Freedom Plaza in Washington D.C., pedestrians joined the gathering throng of protesters for the third annual Women’s March. The crowd was thick with chaos and disorganization; pink hats bobbed and signs waved as hawkers sold buttons and music played all around. People stopped to admire the increasingly creative signs, each with its own message, yet all with the same underlying purpose: to fight for their voices to be heard.
Among those present were Carrboro students, like Ella Shapard, senior, who has attended all three of the women’s marches since 2017.
“I love going to marches like these,” said Shapard. “This year, I noticed a lot of little girls [marching], which made me so happy because I think it’s important for younger generations of girls to feel empowered and supported.”
This year’s Women’s March, dubbed the #WomensWave, is the third of its kind since its formation in 2017, following President Trump’s inauguration. Hundreds of thousands of protesters across the nation originally rallied together to protest injustice, specifically against women, people of color, LGBTQ communities and other marginalized groups.
However, this year’s Women’s March varied from those of years past in multiple ways. According to NPR, accusations of anti-Semitism linked to some of the leaders of the Women’s March, lead large organizations such as the Democratic National Committee to drop their sponsorship of the event. Across the nation, marches on Saturday had lower turnout as many supporters decided to stay home.
Despite the confusion and controversy, the protesters marched with the same enthusiasm and courage as seen in past years.
Marchers in D.C. kicked off the protest at the Freedom Plaza then marched down Pennsylvania Ave NW. Shouts of “Shame!” rose as they passed the Trump International Hotel, while a female marching band beat out a rhythm in front. As protesters turned onto 10th St NW, an echoing chant unified marchers as they cried, “Show me what democracy looks like; this is what democracy looks like!”
“Being with all of those empowered women makes me feel more optimistic about the future of our country, especially at a time when it is easy to get frustrated with the current administration and the ideology of hatred that it promotes,” said Shapard, about her overall impression of this year’s protest.
Protestors eventually looped back to Freedom Plaza, waving signs as leaders spoke out from a central stage.
Protesters this year opposed myriad issues, challenging white supremacy, sexism, the GOP, Trump’s wall and racism, to name a few others. Marchers also held signs that objected to the treatment of immigrants at the border and indigenous peoples, as well as advocating for popular figures such as Dr. Christine Ford, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
This year’s protests coincided with the recent, and unprecedented, amount of women elected to Congress in the midterms, as well as the new Democratic majority in the House. Other recent events, like the government shutdown, fueled a new kind of fury for protesters in the streets, with many signs including messages about shutting down Trump instead of our government.