Multiple marches filled the streets of Washington, D.C. over the cold, winter weekend celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Sex, race and religion were major themes.

The first was the Indigenous People’s March, which met at the Dept. of Interior at 8:00 a.m. on Friday, January 18. After a greeting with prayers and songs, a few hundred people marched to the Lincoln Memorial, where there were some unpleasant encounters with other protestors.

Some of those had come for the 46th annual March for Life, always held near January 22, because that was the date in 1973 when the Supreme Court issued its decision restricting a state’s ability to deny women access to abortion. (Roe v. Wade) It always meets on the Mall for an hour before marching to the Supreme Court.

I went to the Supreme Court looking for NOW (National Organization for Women), which had asked sympathizers to join it on the Supreme Court sidewalk to hold up pro-choice signs while pro-lifers walked by.

Feminists have been doing this for years, but I couldn’t find them until I crossed the street, from which I could see a few pro-choice signs facing the street. This was the smallest counter-protest that I have seen at this annual event.

The U.S. Capitol Police lined both sides of the street to keep anyone on the sidewalk from going into the street. They started doing that after Stop Patriarchy blocked the street in 2015 and 2016 just as the March for Life banner approached the Supreme Court.

I hadn’t intended to spend two hours shooting the March for Life (I’ve done that before) but I had such a good photo spot, with the Supreme court in the background, that I just stayed and clicked.

The third Women’s March was held on Saturday, almost two years from the massive gathering of women on January 21, 2017. By the time it started on January 19, several sponsors had dropped out because of the controversy generated over accusations of anti-Semitism by some march leaders.

Many groups held events before the March. Although the Democratic National Committee dropped out, the Woman’s National Democratic Club held a poster making session, a musical party the night before, and a breakfast the morning of the March.

There was a last minute change of location from a march on the Mall with a rally at Lincoln Memorial to Freedom Plaza. (map of the Women’s March)

The AFL-CIO held a rally at its headquarters before walking to Freedom Plaza.

The Plaza was too small for all people who wanted to march. They packed the Plaza and flowed into the streets.

Many were wearing pink pussy hats that had been popularized by the 2017 march.

At 11:00 a.m. the march stepped off for a short walk down Pennsylvania Ave. before returning to the Plaza.

The five block walk took a long time because the street was packed and people moved very slowly. Banners were often hidden in the crowd.

Everyone turned at the Trump Building.

A gaggle of counter-protestors staked out territory on the sidewalk on the march route. DC Police created a protest pen with yellow crime tape and guarded them to be sure there were no physical confrontations.

The message on their signs was a combination of fundamentalist Christianity and anti-feminism.

Some signs were professionally printed and passed out to the crowd.

Many brought their own homemade signs.

The rally began at 1:00 Less than a thousand people actually heard the speakers live, or watched them on jumbotrons. Many had come as family groups; it was cold and there was no place to sit.

At the other end of Freedom Plaza (only a block away) a group of Native Americans played their drums and chanted.

On Pennsylvania Ave. itself, pro-lifers set up their large posters showing dismembered fetuses. Feminists stood in front, using their signs to block the posters.

After leaving the Plaza many went to the White House where they posed for photos and left their signs in the barricades the police had erected to keep protestors from getting too close.

A profusion of merchants sold buttons, pussy hats and t-shirts. None of that money went to Women’s March, which sold its swag online.

A richer commercial establishment set up a booth to collect signs and preserve them for history. They will be given to the New York Historical Society for exhibits.

Jo Freeman has published 11 books and hundreds of articles.  The information in this article was based on a story in Senior Women Web that was posted on Jan. 22, 2019.

One thought on “Sex, Race and Religion Flood the Streets of Washington, DC

  1. It seems that a protest march is a nice day out where we meet people who share our view on one topic and shout at those who don’t. Nothing changes because change requires hard, political work to organise and motivate votes against the power of money.

Leave a Reply