This is what DEMOCRACY looks like! by Laura Kohl

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Women's March, Washington D.C.

I was born and grew up in the Washington, D.C. area. I was there when there were huge protests about the racism and abuse going on around our country. I was even there in 1960 when John Kennedy was elected President and in 1963, when Martin Luther King gave his amazing “I have a dream” speech. I went to President Kennedy’s Inauguration, in spite of the snow and freezing temperatures, and my sister went to the Inaugural Ball! But, I did not participate in King’s March. Admittedly, I was just a teenager, but I missed going to Martin Luther King’s speech because I chose to babysit and earn a little money. I have regretted my whole life that I missed the “Dream” speech for such silliness. I left for college in Connecticut in 1965.

I have been back to Washington many times since then, and I have always loved it to visit. San Diego is my current home.

When the plans for a Women’s March on Washington were first spread around, I knew I wanted to go. I learned that history happens all around us every day, whether we choose to pay attention or not. I knew I was going and made my plans. My husband was just as enthusiastic! I posted on Facebook, to my old friends in Washington, and asked if anyone had a floor or couch. A dear friend invited us to stay at her house for our two nights.
We flew from San Diego to Richmond, Virginia, on Thursday, January 19. On Friday, January 20, we took the Amtrak train up to Washington, and out to my friend’s home in Rockville. From our first moment getting to Washington, we met up with other “pink-hatters” – others on their way to the March. Our seat companion on the plane, our fellow train passengers, and all along our route, we smiled and acknowledged other marchers.

At Union Station (the hub of train and metro transportation in D.C.), there was an impromptu demonstration right out in front. Young people with signs stood. Many little kiosks were set up all around the area. The Trump stands seemed have lots of shirts, hats, and buttons that they were trying to sell. There were not many customers. Throughout that day (the day of the actual Inauguration) and the next day, the day of the March, I never saw many customers for Trump’s Inaugural memorabilia. People from all directions were converging on Washington. There were streams of people wearing pink hats, carrying signs, and wearing labeled clothing in support of the March. We got settled in our housing.

On Saturday, January 21, we got up early and got into Washington, in the area of the March, at about 7. Anytime you stopped, you would see people pouring into the area from each direction. It gives me goosebumps even now to think of it.
The crowd make up was unlike any demonstration I have seen or been a part of. It included 3 and 4 generations of families, it included all ages and races of people, with many, many young people energizing the whole group. The most surprising thing was the numbers of disabled adults and young people. People in wheelchairs, motored or pushed along, and many people with walkers and canes joined the audience and later marched the distance to the White House. It was totally understandable that they would come, but they showed such courage and effort to be on this March that was so bursting with hundreds of thousands of people. We must protect our brothers and sisters from cuts to their basic assistance and medical coverage.

The March events began at 10, with three hours of speeches and then a 2-hour March meeting up roughly between the Washington Monument and the White House. We were early enough to be in front. I heard Charlie, the Inaugural Moderator of many decades who had just been fired by President Trump’s team. He warmly welcomed the crowd, and the crowd warmly welcomed him back. Then we were able to hear awesome and articulate America Ferrera, wonderful Native American music, and Gloria Steinem.

More scenes from Washington. Photo by Laura Kohl

Listening to Gloria Steinem was a dream-come-true for me and thousands of others. All talking stopped while she spoke. We were mesmerized. I was able to hear the first speakers – and was close enough to see them on one of the big screens set up along the street. I heard Gloria Steinem, America Ferrera, Ashley Judd, Melissa Harris-Perry and Michael Moore either from that amazing front of the rally or on television as soon as I got home. I was so DELIGHTED that I made the trip – proud that I’d made the effort, and delighted to join up with this important mass movement, to let our new President know that we could and would be mobilized.

There were some wonderfully funny, deeply somber, and irreverent signs. These were some of my favorites:
“THIS is what democracy looks like!”
“We need a Leader, not a creepy tweeter”
“Misogyny is Tyranny”
“I can’t believe we still have to protest this”
“We don’t deserve this”

After standing at the rally for about three cold hours, my husband and I went searching for a bite to eat and a seat. The experience only got more exciting. People were PACKED into any space. Walking around the area, an area I am familiar with as a Washington, D.C. native, I had the feeling I was in a river that had been impacted by a gigantic storm. It was overflowing its banks, creating new streams everywhere it went for streets and streets and streets! It was amazing!
On the way back to our housing, on the Metro, trains were packed. Each time someone got off – ALL of us wore pink hats – all of us on the train would chant THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE, and we cheered. What an experience!!! I am so glad I did not miss it!

And now, it is time to get our hands dirty, and get to work!

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