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On Protest Day, ‘There Sure was a Lot of Love’

Reflections by: Ashwina Lewis, junior, East Grand Rapids High School

What started as a disgruntled Facebook post following the 2016 election results, by Hawaii resident Teresa Shook, turned into nationwide marches with an estimated more than 2 million people participating. It seemed to me as if the entire country was standing alongside me in the streets of D.C.

Everywhere you looked, there were rhetorically-charged, ahem, “pussy hats” in every imaginable shade of pink. Even before we arrived in D.C., we stopped at an Ohio rest stop and were greeted by a herd of knitted pink caps. As soon as we arrived at the the metro station, we saw the line of people just waiting to get into the station was out of the parking lot. That was when I realized this march was bigger than we thought.

Editor’s note: Ashwina Lewis attended the Women’s March on Washington Feb. 21, and offered to write about her experience for School News Network. Her brief bio: “When I’m not being a constitutional scholar for our state champion We The People team, I enjoy writing for (EGR student newspaper) The Vision, rowing with my friends on our crew team and spending time with my family and dog, Kitta.”

Related Story: Witnessing Inauguration Showed ‘Democracy at its Finest’ – As I stepped on the bus at approximately 5:45 a.m. last Thursday morning, I knew this trip to Washington D.C. to witness the Presidential Inauguration, with about 20 of my peers and history teacher John Doyle, was going to be crazy awesome. Sure, the ride seemed to drag on, but it built my excitement up for the days ahead, and it was an experience that lived up to my expectations…

The metro train itself was packed with women, and men, hauling sparkly, homemade, carefully illustrated signs bearing slogans such as “Rise Up!” from the musical “Hamilton,” or my personal favorite, “Good Girls Revolt.” Everyone was chatting while packed together in the cramped train car, asking about where they were from, what brought them here, or why they were marching. The camaraderie among the marchers made the train delays more tolerable, along with the fact that we knew we were part of the cause. Nothing unites people more than fighting for their rights.

Arriving at the actual event, walking up the stairs of the dark, musty metro to the bright, colorful, electrically charged atmosphere of the D.C. sidewalks was unforgettable despite the gloomy, overcast day. The flood of people marching down 9th Street, past the Smithsonian, and past the U.S. Capitol welcomed us into their parade of pink hats, and we joined them, holding our signs proudly above our heads. We passed people selling T-shirts with the women’s march logo on them, people on street corners playing upbeat tunes on saxophones and trombones. For such a heavy topic as the fight for minority groups’ rights, there sure was a lot of love.

EGR Classmates Eleanor West, left, and Ashwina Lewis
EGR Classmates Eleanor West, left, and Ashwina Lewis

Holding Hands and Feeling Empowered

Eventually, my group and I made our way to hear the speakers, but there were so many people that they had to put up screens every four blocks or so, and we were at the second-to-last screen. We listened to a wide range of powerful women, from female members of Congress to musician Alicia Keys. They spoke on topics ranging from demanding justice for Sandra Bland (a black woman who died while in jail in Texas in 2015) to urging us to call our local government officials. The best part, however, was when one speaker called for us to join hands. Seeing thousands of people holding hands, all wearing pink knitted hats, was definitely empowering. And then we marched.

We marched past the Washington Monument, past the Capitol and past the Trump International Hotel. Hundreds of marchers had laid their signs in front of the Trump hotel, while others booed while passing. Two brave women, one holding a sign reading “Sisters will crush you,” sat on the fence outside the hotel and were greeted with cheers and applause from the marchers. As we walked farther and farther, we realized that we weren’t the only march parading through the streets. We saw at least three other women’s marches, mostly because we all couldn’t fit in one march.

After a long day of being politically active, the metro ride back to our hotel was relatively quiet. As everyone went their separate ways and departed the station, we harmonized one last time to sing “Lean On Me,” while walking away from the largest day of protest in U.S. history.

Clasped hands and pink hands were signs of unity among the marchers
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