(One of my favourite pieces about the #WomensMarch so far.)
The streets of Washington, D.C. were almost entirely unimpeded the day after the Inauguration; the majority of the barriers that had blocked off traffic lay in neat stacks on street corners, leaving the city open for protesters to move freely. There were no intimidating lines of cops in riot gear, like you might see at a Black Lives Matter rally. Instead, the police presence was sparse and aloof. At one point, a cop rode on horseback down 7th Street amid a press of bodies, and the greatest threat was what the horse left behind. “Watch out for horseshit,” announced the woman behind us with a megaphone, and we shouted back “literal and metaphorical!”
Seventh Street was not on the permitted route. The crowd had overflowed its boundaries; the designated route was already packed full of women, and so we spilled into the Mall and any other space available. We would easily have been blocking traffic if anyone had been foolish enough to try driving around downtown. At times, we marched shoulder to shoulder; if we’d been told to get off the street, we couldn’t have complied if we had wanted to. And yet the mounted cop passed peacefully through the crowd, trailing shit.
Yes, the marchers on Saturday were well-behaved. But when has that ever mattered? John Lewis was beaten nearly to death for marching across a bridge in Selma. Ieshia Evans stood bare-armed and weaponless as police in body armor lunged towards her with plastic cuffs in Baton Rouge. If the cops want to arrest a protester, they will gladly turn her into a criminal—ordering her to disperse while making it physically impossible, for instance, or searching her with or without consent in an attempt to turn up something illegal. (At the march on Washington, organizers said that bags larger than 8 x 6 x 4 were not allowed. Many marchers carried larger bags under their coats. If any cops had checked, they could have had an excuse to detain us, but nobody did.) Bad behavior is enough to lead to arrests, but good behavior isn’t enough to avoid it. If the cops didn’t arrest anyone, it’s because they didn’t want to.
A glance at any Women’s March photo will give you a clue to the reason. Underneath those pink hats were a lot of white faces—a stark reminder of the 53% of white women who voted for Trump, as one protester reminded everyone with a sign that later went viral. The average marcher did not look like John Lewis, or like Ieshia Evans. The average marcher looked like me—a white lady. If I don’t look like someone a cop wants to arrest, that’s not a testament to my law-abiding goodness, or the cop’s. It’s a testament to how sexism in this country fuels racism, and vice versa. It’s a testament to exactly what we need to resist.