Fomenting the Rebellion
A Day with the Women’s March on Denver
“You think you’re in this little bubble, and don’t realize you’re surrounded by a mass of people,” said a young woman right in front of us at the Women’s March on Denver. It was an apt metaphor for what turned out to be a historic day of American dissent.
This wasn’t the bubble. This was the masses — reportedly 200,000 people; five times what was expected — young and old, all races and colors and creeds, women and children, and quite a few men too.
I was there with my wife, my mother-in-law, and her longtime friend from Puerto Rico, who responded to almost any question or comment by saying, “I’m ready.”
We took an Uber downtown to get as close to the start of the march as possible. Our driver was an older white man, a Navy veteran with a lesbian daughter, who thanked us for “doing what you’re doing today.”
Walking across Civic Center Park, we were greeted with a sea of humanity and signs and chants.
“We are not alone,” one woman said, a smile sliding across her face.
The mass of people stalled as we hit the north end of the park, near the Voorhies Memorial, where the march was to start.
There was no marching though, it was just too many people at that point. But it didn’t really matter. The mood was light and loving. People snapped pictures and broke into the occasional chants.
A passer-by asked to take a photo of a woman in a “Nobody Puts Science in the Corner” shirt. She asked that the photo be neck down, “So I can keep my science-teaching job.”
A makeshift brass band wove through the crowd playing Down by the Riverside.
People sang along, including a woman behind me with perfect pitch. It was wonderful.
Later, as everyone patiently waited, the low hum of This Land Is Your Land began to spread.
After we’d made our way onto Colfax Avenue, it became clear we weren’t going anywhere. After almost two hours in the same horde of people with ‘pussyhats’ and protest signs, we basically had not moved.
The march was now a rally.
We walked back through the park to listen to some of the speakers. There were callbacks to the “echoes” of past marches and movements, and necessary frustration and anger voiced over longstanding fights for equality. There were speeches and songs and poems and a dance troupe that made thousands of signs bounce up and down in strength and solidarity.
A chilling moment occurred when one of the organizers asked any women who’d ever been sexual harassed, sexually assaulted, or raped to raise their hands. The hum of the crowd fell silent as so many hands — what seemed like all of them — went up in the air.
It was jarring. Eyes welled and everyone stopped breathing for a second.
The sober moment again turned to inspiration, with a call-and-response about the actions to be taken, the work to be done, and the long resistance ahead.
The whole thing was beautiful, and called to mind the 1776 letter that Abigail Adams wrote to her husband John, urging him and his peers to be attentive to and understanding of women in the fight for American independence.
“Remember the ladies” is the well-known part. But the rest is worth reading, and still prescient 241 years later:
“I long to hear that you have declared an independency — and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”
On Saturday, as word spread about huge turnouts in Denver and DC, Chicago and LA, and literally hundreds of cities and towns across the country, big and small, red and blue, it didn’t feel like a bubble. It felt like a mass of people — of women, of mothers and daughters and sisters — demanding to be seen and heard.