At long last, we started moving. And from the very first moment that people got the message that, yes, because of how immensely larger than expected the crowd was, we were in fact being told to walk north along 7th, and not to turn west along Independence as had been planned, it was clear that this was a very special moment. As the crowd slid along the (really too narrow) cross street and parted then re-converged around the various vehicles that were parked at the intersection of Jefferson. You could feel the realization dawning on people that what was happening exceeded everyone’s expectations by a wide margin and also that the authorities had had the most mature and poised response possible. Our semi-improvised path involved moving and moving around police mobile units and squad cars and stepping over or around police lines, but all I heard by way of an “order” from the security personnel nearby were a couple of “hold ons” and on one occasion a “we gotcha, just chill.”
But more than the (non-) presence of police, what we felt was, of course, the presence of one another. For me this meant, first of all, my immediate family: it was by a wide margin the proudest moment in my life to feel Ido by side and Rona on my shoulders (mostly); totally engaged and participating in the chants, the chats, and the moments of silence. Ido took most to calling out “Love trumps hate,” but he also started a few “Show me what democracy looks like,” chants, and also learned what a “feminist” is and what “feminists” look like too. The shout outs from the beautiful, glamorous men, women and others standing on the media trucks and on trees brought out a glow in Ido that was glorious to see. And hearing him shout out “Immigrants are welcome here!” in response to the call “Say it loud and say it clear,” knowing that just the day before, we’d had a long conversation with Ido about the change in immigration policy likely from the new Administration and what it might have meant for Irit’s prospects had that policy been in place when she applied for a student visa 16 years ago, surely counts as among the most satisfying moments I’ve had as a partner, father and citizen.
But the experience with Rona was, truly, something else. Somewhere along the Mall, stuck because Constitution was just too full of people and perhaps because the crowd had not yet started self-diverting on Pennsylvania, Rona started leading a group of young women who had travelled from UCLA in a series of chants. It began when Rona heard someone repeat the content of a poster nearby: “Donald Trump, I am not your B**CH.” Rona heard this message (thankfully) as “Donald Trump: It’s Not Your Thing!” and she thought this was the best thing ever. So, she called it out, and her devoted followers repeated. Empowered, she tried out variants: “Donald Trump: It’s Not Your Street!” and “Donald Trump: It’s Not Your Tree.” Gleeful as voices surrounded us on all sides, repeating her words, she decided to see how far this could go. She tried out another series, which all began: “Donald Trump, we do not agree with you if you…” and then closed with variants like “do not talk nice,” “do the wrong thing” and “are mean.” It didn’t exactly roll of the tongue, but you know, the UCLA contingent made it work and soon enough we were all getting down to Rona’s spoken word act. With the National Gallery now on our right and with our new friends asking where she got these statements from, and if maybe she would run for President someday, we briefly heard a police siren for the first time. Soon, a line of mounted police officers rolled by — with hindsight, I could speculate that maybe they were deploying to Pennsylvania because the illicit march to the White House had begun? — and as we were all waiting for them to pass and move north, a wave of voices singing “Lean on Me” passed from our south and east to our north and west.
In the end, that was basically it for our “march”; we were in motion only from 7th and Independence up to Constitution, then over to 9th and up one block to Pennsylvania. Basically four blocks north and one block west; less than a ten minute walk under normal circumstances. The crowd, of course pushed on, further along Pennsylvania Avenue and up to the White House, acting on its own initiative and with the cooperation of the authorities, who must have been tempted to declare — as had been done in Chicago — that no march would be allowed because there was no way to safely accommodate the gathered crowds. The kids, by this point, were really worn out, and we were too. So, we took a rest in the Navy Memorial, where Ido had once played with my parents during a visit to Washington while we were staying in Annapolis for the summer in 2010. Watching him and Rona run up and down along the steps, grabbing at a stray bubble that floated along, released by the kind of “bubble performer” that had entertained Ido in this spot six and a half years earlier, it was hard not to think about my mother — who had been so delighted to see him playing with the bubbles, and who would have been so moved to be a part of a crowd like this one.
So I may as well close by saying that #WhyIMarch is: for Carole Lea Weinman, may her memory be for a blessing. She may not have been there in body. But I know she was with us every step in spirit.