It takes a special cause to get dozens of college students up before the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning. The Boston Women’s March for America proved just that rallying cause. About 60 Ephs met at the Davis Center (D.C.)at 6:30 a.m. to board vans driven by professors and staff to make the three-hour trek to the Massachusetts capital on Saturday in protest of President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Tania Calle ’20 mobilized student unions to march and organized transportation in collaboration with the Davis Center. She described her efforts in making this transportation possible.
“Mobilizing students to attend the march was actually very feasible. Through many different outlets … many students reached out and committed to attending. We even had a waiting list [for transportation],” Calle said.
Calle also commended the role that the College administration played in making student mobilization a reality. “The [D.C.] office, [administrator] Amy Merselis to be specific, provided unrelenting words of assurance, shout-outs and resources to ensure that things went smoothly,” Calle said. “I could not have organized Williams students to the march without the [D.C.] and the students who attended.”
We entered a crowded subway (which, courtesy of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, was free for the day) at the Alewife station and made our way down the Red Line to Park Street. We exited the station into a swarm of people, signs and pink knit hats.
Going into the march, I was a little anxious in light of reports of arrests made for rioting in D.C. after the inauguration.While the crowds were a little intimidating at first, I never felt unsafe. I did not witness any incidents of violent protests and, out of hundreds of thousands of protesters, no arrests were made by the day’s end.
Walking closer to the center of the Boston Common, I noticed a few counter-protesters on the way. Students from the College had been instructed not to engage with any counter-protesters for the sake of our own safety. However, out of the few counter-protesters I encountered, most just stood silently with their signs as people walked past.
The crowd carried a variety of creative signs. I found a few particularly clever, including “Women’s Rights, Not Twitter Fights” and “Alt + Right + Delete.” Protesters chanted uplifting messages such as, “Love, not hate, makes America great.” These acts of demonstration were a form of activism that was powerful yet peaceful.
We made our way towards the main stage, where Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), among other politicians, activists and performers, addressed the crowd before marching began. Their remarks covered a range of issues, including Black Lives Matter, climate change, LGBT rights and immigration.
“We can whimper, we can whine or we can fight back,” Warren said. “Me, I’m here to fight back.”
Going into the march, organizers had estimated about 80,000 people to be in attendance. The Boston Globe later reported that the crowd in the Boston Common had reached an estimated 175,000 people. However, trying to exit the Common was not the mayhem that I expected. Thousands of people near the gate that let out onto Beacon Street patiently waited to pass through without any pushing or shoving.
“I definitely did not expect so many people to be there! It was the most people I have ever been around, and it was such a positive, passionate crowd,” Haley Bosse ’20 said. “I thought it was organized as well as it could have been … It was slow moving due to the huge crowd but they did a good job keeping people excited to march.”
The sense of camaraderie that the protesters expressed amazed me. Men, women, children and even a few pets were all in attendance to support women’s rights. Here I was, in a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people who were unashamedly fed up, yet everyone I interacted with treated me like we had known each other our whole lives. I saw men and women go up to one another offering unsolicited help, be it taking a picture for someone or giving out directions. While trying to exit the Common, I mentioned that I was hungry, and the woman standing next to me reached into her bag and handed me an apple, no questions asked.
Allycia Jones ’07 approached me on the street, asking where I had gotten my “Williams Feminists” shirt, which was provided by the D.C. We began to chat and I asked her how she thought Saturday’s demonstrations would go over with the American public. “What I’m hoping is that people who couldn’t get out and rally don’t feel like they’re alone,” she said, “and that people who feel like they won and their side is in charge will realize how many of us there are who are going to keep working against them.”
Trump’s presidency, only one day old, met a fervent wave of opposition. Saturday’s marches, which occurred in over 500 cities across the United States, have collectively been the largest demonstration in U.S. history, with an estimated 3.7 million attendees. This movement’s potential to effect change will depend on its ability to stay relevant, a responsibility that lies on the shoulders of millennial-aged citizens like the College’s students and recent alumni who fervently participated in counter-inaugural activities.
Some students have expressed frustration with some reactions to these activities. “From what I’ve seen, Trump supporters were reacting as expected to the marches across the world. They find them unnecessary and view those who are anti-Trump as ‘sore losers,’” Ashley Villarreal ’20 said. “It’s an immature and uninformed view seeing as protests and marches have such a long history of enacting change in our nation.”
Former President Barack Obama expressed his faith in the millennial generation in his Jan. 10 farewell address. “This generation coming up – unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic – I’ve seen you in every corner of the country … You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result that the future is in good hands.”
The acts of peaceful protest I witnessed on Saturday, not just by students at the College, but by people of all backgrounds, was a strong indicator that this generation will embrace those virtues and remain engaged in the causes it holds dear.