To the editor:
The 2018 Women’s March in New York City this past Saturday was memorable, not only for its scale and intensity, but also for the resilience of the marchers. Last year, Fifth Avenue was filled with enthusiastic women, and a sprinkling of men and children, all in various states of protest. However, this year was different.
- Leading the March was a large group of women and men in wheelchairs, bundled from the cold and seemingly uncomfortable in the press of the crowds. Heroic.
- Then came the blind. Also heroic.
- They were followed by a stream of marchers crowding Central Park West, following the park south onto Sixth Avenue. After a two-hour delay in cold and windy weather, there was thick, tense congestion at the front of the March. An exciting loud beat of drummers was followed by a large mass of marchers.
- There were pink hats and signs like last year, but the mood of the 2018 March had grown much more serious. While last year’s March was a vocal parade of women, this year’s March was a protest based on what’s actually happening in peoples’ lives. Many of these marchers had suffered indignities, and the hardship was noticeable.
Some individuals are indelible in my mind:
- A large, middle-aged woman with long, grey hair marched in bare feet with sandals, a shirt and skirt – no coat. It was frigid cold! She was committed to do whatever was necessary and had a clever sign, which many around me commented on, not noticing she wasn’t wearing a coat.
- Due to fatigue, an elderly African-American woman tried to exit the March. Dressed in a formal wool hat and coat, she must have been exhausted from the 2-hour delay in the thick crowd. It occurred to me that, since she was in the front of the March, she must have arrived early, 8 or 9am. And since it was after 1pm, she probably couldn’t go on any more. Her face showed great strength but utter exhaustion.
- I began to focus on the elderly, fast realizing there were a large number of women and men over 70. Fragile but resolute, they were integrity personified. Their personal lives had been impacted, and there was moral outrage that their country had changed for the worst.
After hours of watching from Columbus Circle, I took a break to get warm, and 30 minutes later the March was still going strong on Central Park South and a new group had emerged. The tone had changed. These later marchers were like the ones I saw last year – passionate. They had returned with husbands and children. Chanting and singing in protest, their voices were stronger now. Clearly, they were also angry that something they once knew was now lost. They clearly intended to somehow bring it back.
While the 2017 March was impressive for its vast numbers of women standing together, the 2018 March was equally impressive for its vast numbers of women and men protesting together, in common outrage and cause. I will always remember the elderly and the fragile, who were quietly present with a dignity that shaped this country. I will also remember the intensity of the activist women, protesting to hold onto our country.
This was an American gathering; a truly diverse group that New York City readily provides. They were disillusioned, angry, resolute and united. Something had to be done. They were all doing their best.
The writer is publisher of Berkshire Food and Travel and is a member of the Berkshire Women’s Action Group.