I marched in the Atlanta March for Social Justice and Women alongside the women in our family, all despondent since Hillary Clinton’s loss. We’re a political clan — my father-in-law was in Jimmy Carter’s White House and my sisters-in-law and husband were “Peanut Brigaders.” In 2016, the next generation had lifted the torch anew — my niece and son worked for Clinton. Expecting a victory, we had planned an inaugural celebration in Washington. Instead, there we were last Saturday in the driving rain wearing goofy pink hats amidst thousands of fellow mourners in Centennial Olympic Park.
The celebratory atmosphere, reminiscent of the open-air party that accompanied the city’s 1996 Olympics, went a long way towards soothing our anxiety about Trump’s presidency. The size of the protest vastly exceeded expectations. As my cousin (mom of a Georgia Tech student) remarked, the only time such a large crowd gathers on the streets of Atlanta is on a fall Saturday outside Bobby Dodd stadium. But a week ago, Trump had trashed beloved Rep. John Lewis, generating momentum that might not have otherwise materialized. Rep. Lewis ended up giving the opening speech although few could hear it. Saying he “knew something about marching,” he told protesters to “never lose hope.”
Most of the protesters here were white women, likely Hillary voters from the city and newly Blue suburbs. Despite the flack young women took during the campaign for not being sufficiently fired up about feminism, there were a lots of college students and 20-somethings. For many, like two of my former students, it was probably the first time they had ever protested anything. One of these, a Latina first-gen graduate now working as a research librarian at a prestigious university, said she was compelled to march because “with Trump in power, the old [racist and sexist] rhetoric” is back and she’s fearful when she leaves the Atlanta bubble.
Protest signs here mirrored the diversity of other cities, but the dominant theme was to challenge Trump’s crude slurs against women. I saw more diagrams of genitalia than in the waiting room of my OB/GYN’s office. There was also a plethora of messages about fighting sexual assault and protecting reproductive rights. No surprise there. Georgia women have good reason to worry about below-the-belt issues. Besides failing to expand Medicaid, the governor was among the first to sign a 20-week abortion ban.
I recently joined a local activist group committed to turning Georgia Blue and advancing progressive causes. I’m hearing of similar groups popping up elsewhere. The positive energy from the March will help sustain what will likely be challenging days ahead.