In a shoulder-to-shoulder sea of pink, picket signs and knitted “pussy” hats empower a crowd of nearly half a million in Washington D.C. Peaceful, but determined, the crowd of mostly women prepares to march in protest. Some are tired from travel, but eager to show their power.
Among the crowd of change-hungry stands a familiar face.
Elizabeth Donley, Clark English professor and division chair, flew out the Thursday before Inauguration Day to lend her own voice in the Women’s March on Washington. Though a sister march was held in her hometown of Portland, Donley traveled cross country to demonstrate her concerns for women’s rights and desire to be an activist role model for her two daughters, Isabelle, 13, and Sophie, 11.
Though the march fell only two weeks into a new quarter, a busy time for a division chair, Donley solidified her plans to travel about a month prior.
“This is too important, and it’s something that I wanted to be a part of,” Donley said the Thursday morning before she flew a red-eye to New York.
Donley, who has family in New York, was also greatly encouraged by her mother.“She said ‘We have to go, we have to go,’” Donley said.
Therefore, on Saturday morning, Donley, her mother, aunt, cousin and his family woke up bright and early to catch a 4 a.m. bus.
The Women’s March, scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., was a grassroots-level response to the recent mood of the 2016 election season. The motivation behind the movement was to show that “women’s rights are human rights,” according to the march website.
The official march path began at Independence Avenue and Third Street S.W., with plans to march down Independence Avenue. Due to limited parking, participants were urged to take the Metro.
However, due to the crowd size, Donley’s group and others, found the Metro to be overcrowded and were directed to walk to the starting place of the march.
“The crowd was spilling over the sidewalk,” Donley said.
Some buses, due to heavy traffic, did not make it on time to the march, Donley said. Along the path, residential neighbors joined the sidelines to cheer, thank and support the protesters.
“It was amazing to see the different signs,” Donley said while sitting in the warmth of her
office in Foster Hall, the day after returning. “Not everyone was there for the same issue.”
Donley said some were driven by their concern about threats to reproductive rights or over the future of the Affordable Care Act. For others, it was immigration rights and climate change awareness.
“I think many people have been inspired by anger,” said Donley, comparing the atmosphere of the Women’s March with that of more recent protests.
“People might be feeling anger or they might be inspired by anger, but they’re not letting that anger turn into something violent or dark,” Donley said, describing the Women’s March as a supportive and encouraging environment. “They’re using that anger to take part in action in a positive way: writing letters, protesting peacefully.”
In spite of concerns of tension, Donley describes the march as “peaceful.”
“I think people felt good, but I think they also felt hope.”
As for life after the march, Donley hopes it will encourage others to become more involved in their government, whether through town hall meetings or contacting legislators.
“I hope we can have peaceful dialogue back and forth, where we don’t get angry at each other but are willing to listen and think critically and have important conversations that will lead to the kind of change we all want, the majority wants,” Donley said. “If we never have dialogue with those who don’t agree with us, it’s never gonna go anywhere.”
As for Donley, the march has emboldened her to continue government participation and civic involvement. “I think it was easily one of the most significant experiences of my life.”