The Women’s March Returns to New York City
January 20, 2018
For organizers of the first Women’s March on Washington, which took place on January 21, 2017, the day after Donald Trump’s Inauguration, harnessing the burst of acute outrage that accompanied his swearing-in wasn’t especially difficult; that anger was still brand new and white-hot. The March merely offered a target, a particular direction in which to channel that rage: be here, and do this. The event was imperfect—some felt that its organizers failed to recognize some basic tenets of intersectionality, which eventually led to internal fracturing within the movement—but most everyone I know who attended considered it a true and unforgettable gift.
Yet anger, no matter how deep, tends to give way to exhaustion, which is far harder to focus or mobilize. Fresh rage is easy. Sustained rage tends to turn in on itself, change shape, hew closer to resignation. Trump’s first year in office provided many reasons for panic and fear, justifications to shut down and drop out. Even from beyond the immediate sphere of the White House, there was a seemingly endless stream of news about men in positions of power subjugating or abusing women as a matter of routine. Just this week, Larry Nassar—a sports physician who has pleaded guilty to ten counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct after at least a hundred and forty young women, including the Olympic gold medallists McKayla Maroney and Simone Biles, accused him of sexual assault—asked that the judge presiding over his case not force him to listen to any more witness testimony. (She declined his request.)
For those of us who feel like we have lost the ability to metabolize a story like that—to process our grief at its boundless horrors, and our fury at the institutions that have protected abusers rather than their victims—it’s hard to know what to do in response. But one of the lessons of the #MeToo moment has been that women’s collective voices can have real power. Last year, I was alone in the semi-wilderness during the Women’s March, and dealt with Trump’s election by not speaking to another person for several days. My idea had been to go off and write, but also, if I’m being completely honest, to sit unaccompanied and stare into the middle distance, reasoning through the future. I had thought I might find peace that way—screaming into the darkness. This year, I didn’t want to be alone with my sadness. I needed a crowd.
This weekend’s main march, a rally formally titled “Women’s March Anniversary: Power to the Polls,” will be held in Las Vegas, on Sunday, and speakers will include Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Representative John Lewis, and Alicia Garza, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter. But there are ancillary marches planned for all fifty states, and many global sites. In New York, protesters were told to gather on Saturday morning at Seventy-first Street and Columbus Avenue, for a rally beginning at eleven-thirty and a march down Sixth Avenue to follow. As of Friday afternoon, eighty-five thousand people had registered for the event. An N.Y.P.D. officer I spoke to on the street, upon arriving at Columbus Circle on Saturday, said they were expecting closer to four hundred thousand people. (By day’s end, the mayor’s office had put the tally at two hundred thousand.)