Hundreds of thousands of people gathered for the Women’s March at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Saturday to show solidarity, support for one another and to speak out against President Donald Trump.
There were many reasons I chose to attend the march in Washington as opposed to staying closer to home and attending one of the walks in Binghamton or Ithaca. Primarily, I went because my Mom was going and I wanted to be sure she’d be safe in what could have been a potentially dangerous event. Prior to leaving, there was certainly a bit of tension in the air. I can easily say, however, that the sea of pink hats was the friendliest crowd I’ve ever been a part of.
At times it was hard to fathom just how many people were there, especially in such contrast to the atmosphere just a day earlier. Considerably fewer people were out and about before — and after — President Trump’s inauguration.
Another aspect to consider was not just the number of people but the variety of backgrounds and hometowns mixed together in the nation’s capitol. People had come from across the country to speak out and stand up to the many injustices they feel will be compounded under the new administration.
Cortland natives were present among these vast numbers of protestors; I spoke with a few of them to get their perspective on this momentous event.
Maya Gebhardt, a Cortland native and registered nurse who flew out from Texas to meet with her family in the nation’s capital, believed it was important to show her feelings to the new president as quickly and clearly as possible:
“We also all felt really strong about being in DC one day after Trump’s inauguration. I felt like that would make more of an impact. It was the most positive thing I have ever been a part of. I think the most important success of all of the marches was that it showed just how many people are on our side, how many people are just as worried as we are for many different reasons.”
I asked Steven Broyles, a biology professor and department head at SUNY Cortland, why he had attended the protest as a male participant:
“As a human, the better question might be, ‘Why didn’t more men attend the march?’ We are all the same species but arrive on Earth with two sexes, a diversity of genders, and a great diversity of ethnicity and culture. Women deserve — by nature and our Constitutional amendments — the same rights and privileges as men. I worry, as do many others, that the recent Presidential election and the new administration may take a direction that harms, rather than improves, the rights and privileges of women.”
One of the many criticisms I’ve heard in the past few days regarding the women’s march leaned towards the lack of a cohesive goal or cause tied to the protest. When asked about this, Tricia Reynolds, of Family Counseling Services in Cortland, had this to say:
“People were there for so many causes. So many clever signs. One sign summed it up: ‘Too many issues to fit on this sign’. I think whether it was health insurance, the environment, respect for women, LGBT, Black Lives Matter … what brought everybody out is fear [that] this administration is going to set us back light years on all of it. It’s never too late to act. I do worry with so many issues it will be hard to bring us all together for the long haul and keep a strong, effective movement going.”
Perhaps an interesting perspective to consider is that of someone who was not able to attend the global protests. Rebecca McGory is currently studying for her graduate degree in the city of St. Petersburg, Russia. She’s a Cortland native and had some great insight into the views of the Russian public on the protests as well as President Trump:
“The city I live in for school, St. Petersburg, is much more liberal than the rest of Russia. In four months there, I honestly haven’t come across more than two or three Russians who genuinely supported Trump. For the most part, everyone is very wary and a bit frightened of what the new political landscape is going to be like. I think people were just as surprised in Russia as in the US when Trump won, so all of this is a shock to them, especially the protests … Obviously, in Russia such a protest could never take place right now. So they’re very interested, and again, very surprised and worried.”
Over 500,000 people attended the event in Washington, according to the most recent estimates.
Max Hoeschele is the sales manager for The Cortland Voice. Email him at [email protected].