This weekend's Women's March, in Washington, DC, and hundreds of other cities worldwide, had no defined purpose. It wasn't meant to challenge specific legislation. It wasn't in response to a tragedy, like the Movement for Black Lives protests that began after Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, Missouri.
But it had a target in its sights: President Donald Trump. And, given the millions of people who gathered to voice their opposition and release some of the tension that's been building since November, it was beyond necessary.
Nominally, this was a march for women. And in retrospect, that was a far more beneficial theme than "fuck Trump." Though many attending did echo that particular sentiment, loud and proud, it was about more than him.
Because Donald Trump has certainly touched a nerve: millions of people feel removed from the processes that keep this country running. Economically, politically; they can't find their footing as a current of someone else's making threatens to wash away everything they hold dear.
They're right; the United States belongs to the rich, the wealthy, the powerful. But the man who now leads a supposed charge against that system—a man who has nominated the richest cabinet in American history—has shown no real predilection for change. In fact, he's already making moves to hinder those in need.
And all those votes for Hillary Clinton weren't necessarily votes for the status quo; for many, they were votes for incremental-yet-genuine social progress, or votes against the fear and hate preached by her opponent.
Well, Hillary Clinton is gone now. She did not attend the Women's March; her time has past. And as such, the people are now untethered. It's no longer about support for a flawed, unpopular presidential candidate; it's women, men, everyone, in support of themselves and their neighbors, standing up for the rights they believe in. This was a reminder that, while the people may not have the power now, they can take it back.
I was lucky enough to attend the DC march; as we approached the National Mall at 7th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, a bevy of pussy hats, loud chants, and excited ladies filled the streets that were strikingly empty during Friday's inauguration parade. It was impossible to make your way to the actual march route; there was a sense of controlled confusion, that we were in the right place but uncertain about what came next.
At first, it was a little frightening; anything could happen in that big of a crowd, especially if someone who disagreed with the march's message wanted to spark chaos. But as we moved through the throngs of humanity, listened to the rolling cheers that would spontaneously emerge every few minutes, took in all the handmade signs, and saw the excitement—and concern, and passion—on people's faces, lingering fear turned into a sense of belonging.
This did not feel like a day where trouble lurked on the horizon. It didn't matter if we were marching on the "official" route, or that there was an official route at all. The march's organizers, and the no-longer-looming threat of a Donald Trump presidency, had gotten us here; now it was time to be loud, gain strength, and turn all this energy into something real.
Unfortunately, not all marches and protests go this smoothly. It's telling that this march for women, attended by many white people, proved peaceful while so many marches led by people of color end in police interference, mistreatment of protesters, and unnecessary arrests.
But, as one woman's sign proudly exclaimed, "We all belong. We will defend each other." That's a bold sentiment to voice in America, one we haven't often lived up to. This time, we'll need to. When the current administration enacts policies that hurt black and Hispanic people, white people need to show up. When women are impacted, men need to be there.
By all indications, this will be a rocky four years for anyone who supports equality and intolerance; yesterday's march was proof that we can gather to oppose policies that cripple honest, hard-working Americans of all colors and genders. What we'll have to prove, present company included, is that we will.