No protest is perfect. I mean, hell yeah to the millions of people who showed up to the Women’s March. It was empowering, important and incredible, and the world needs more warm, fuzzy feelings right now. That sort of overwhelming support is what we need in this revolution. But I hope these same people can carry the message of intersectional feminism into the rest of their lives.
If we’re talking about fighting oppression against women (hopefully we know that we should be talking womxn), then we are talking police brutality, systemic racism, economic inequality, the povertization of women—specifically women of color—abortion rights, access to healthcare, freedom of speech, segregation of schools, transphobia, homophobia, etc.
This march filled me with a sense of hope I haven’t felt since Bernie’s campaign, but I also refuse to perpetuate the privileged, white-feminist narrative it sometimes fell into. This is not to dismiss that women are marginalized just because they are women but to say that if we are to fight against the new administration collectively and productively, we need to acknowledge different layers of privilege and oppression.
Originally, this piece was supposed to be solely about the Women’s March on Washington because that was all I’d planned to attend. I wanted to avoid the negative energy in D.C.—to go to museums and be a tourist on inauguration day, focus on self care and save myself for the Women’s March. However, there was more to inauguration weekend than the Women’s March.
My plans to be a tourist were derailed by a benefit show for the Diverse City Fund featuring Tef Poe (a rapper who came out of Ferguson), Rebel Diaz, Immortal Technique and Sammus (a black female rapper who is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Cornell University). Every artist was well versed on systemic violence against marginalized communities. Their anger and passion was contagious and inspirational.
DisruptJ20 had multiple events happening on Inauguration Day including blockades; a convergence space; an unpermitted anti-capitalist, anti-fascist march; a permitted Festival of Resistance march; and a Resistance Rally that had speakers from Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee and a lot of other amazing people.
Many outcomes came from these events: successful blockades that worked peacefully with the police, vandalized property, a limo set on fire, free food for people in need at the rally, over 200 arrests, tear gas, flash bang grenades, bricks thrown, peace signs in the air, a punk rock show in a park, hugs, tears, inspiration, rubber bullets and riot police.
I watched someone have apple cider vinegar poured into their eyes after being drenched in mace. I watched another person leave the protest because they had been hit with a rubber bullet in the scrotum and were bleeding; before being hit, this person had been holding a peace sign in the air in front of the riot police.
It was surreal; it felt like what I imagine a war-zone is like. I was anxious, scared and confused. I have never felt more conflicted about my place in a movement before. I was angry and heartbroken when I saw the man who had been maced. There were very few in the crowd who’d been throwing bricks at the riot line, and I didn’t see an officer harmed. But am I hypocritical?
I carry mace in my purse and would 100 percent mace someone if violently approached in a dark parking garage. You know, self-preservation and all. While I am against the police state and acknowledge that police brutality is real, I felt empathy for both the police and the protestors beyond their representation of the system or the resistance.
These feelings had me questioning myself: am I feeling conflicted because the system is so ingrained in me? How do I feel? Am I a pacifist? What the fuck is going on?
The Women’s March worked out to be my self-care for the day before, but it was more complex than warm fuzzies and pink pussyhats.
I was overwhelmed with hope and pride during the Women’s March, and I was so happy to be there. I cannot explain the amount of joy I felt; I had chills the entire time. But it also added to the ambiguity I was feeling about protests in general. At one point, a “Trump unity bridge” float was followed by a police escort down one of the streets the marchers were on. We surrounded it.
Amongst the crowd yelling, “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A.,” there was also a black demonstrator yelling at a black police officer, “Why are you protecting racists? How could you protect racists?” I made eye contact with this police officer, and it brought me to tears. I was not intimidated by him, and I could not see him as a representation of the system. I just felt bad that he had to escort this Trump float.
I heard quite a few marchers critique the violent protests and the people who harassed the Trump float. My response: How can you critique those who experience further marginalization, those who have been fighting these fights without the support of the masses? Trash cans and limousines can be replaced and Bank of America, Starbucks and McDonald's can afford new windows. But the removal of public services and protections by the Trump administration destroys millions of people’s livelihoods. Social change and identity politics are nothing if not complex, and they’re usually not as pretty as pink pussyhats.
It is easy to denounce a racist, misogynistic, homophobe when he becomes president. I would expect this at the very least from anyone. I see this as a time of the majority having a common enemy—our new president.
My hope, however, is that this commonality will create dialogue that uncovers that we’re up against not only Trump but also the systems of power that allowed him to be elected. I am hopeful that the blossoming resistance from the inauguration will focus its energy towards inclusivity, empathy and understanding.
Power to the people—all people, damn it.
I think it is important to be critical of the Women’s March. A peaceful protest is a privilege, and my experience the day before the march helped me understand that. At the violent protest happening on K Street, it was not empowering to see people get tear gassed or confused by flash grenades. It was uncomfortable. But that’s not a bad thing. At our first meeting of the year, a member of the Feminist Club mentioned that we truly begin to learn and grow when we allow ourselves to be uncomfortable.
Oh, and thank you to everyone who donated to the GoFundMe! You’re amazing and helped us get housing.
Sabi Lowder is a sophomore and the president of Westminster’s Feminist Club.