The sun hadn’t materialized yet when I woke up on Saturday morning, an unexpected occurrence on the weekend after finals week. My waking up was followed by a brief bitterness towards my alarm, but such sentiments dissolved as came out of my disorientation and remembered: I was going to the Los Angeles Women’s March.
I watched the number of pink hats in our Metro car multiply at every stop we made and I gripped harder on the pole I’d been using as support, careful to not step on others’ posters that read “Viva la Vulva” or feet as bodies pressed closer and closer. The entire ride was what I imagined a bus trip to a girls sleepaway camp deep in the sticks to be like, with strangers striking up conversations from compliments on their outfits and other friends unknowingly reuniting and introducing their loved ones. It seemed like the party had already begun on the Metro, but little did I know what was yet to come when I got off at 7th Street Station.
There wasn’t a single soul in Pershing Square that wasn’t packed like a sardine, and any attempt made to walk just a couple of feet resembled the unavailing effort of “salmon swimming upstream,” as one woman put it. The situation grew into disarray as rumors billowed through the crowd that the streets had been packed all the way to City Hall, rendering the organized route futile. The mass turned increasingly antsy as we stood on our feet for over two hours, and chants of “let us march” echoed through the hordes, only to die out after ten shouts and return five minutes later.
After nearly two hours of speeches the crowd began to move, but it almost seemed as if no one really knew where to turn to. Every push and shove from the crowd felt insistent and determined, but hostility had no place in these slight jostles. The people were only attempting to secure a way out of the unmitigated plight the scene had quickly become.
And secure a way we did. The route we took was far off from what had initially been expected, but we still walked. We wove our way through cars on the unblocked roads of L.A. as they honked incessantly in solidarity. Thousands clutched their posters and shouted in bona fide fervor while wearing their pussy hats. Although so many signs and chants circled the boundaries of white feminism and neglected intersectionality at times, I still felt a warmth in the atmosphere telling me, “we are in this together.”
Somehow we arrived at City Hall, and continued to march back to Pershing Square, creating our own path through the streets. As banal as it sounds, it seemed like such a figurative affair, navigating our own course through the disorganization of it all. It gave me an inkling of how we might need to lead our lives under the new administration.
I witnessed my first political protest back in November when I ended up in Indianapolis the same week Donald Trump had been elected. We were on our way to dinner when a march stopped us in our tracks in the middle of the sidewalk. For a solid ten minutes, we watched as the crowd imparted their indignation, refusing to be quelled. I can still remember the effects watching that protest had on my body, heart palpitations and everything. Participating in the Women’s March resurrected those memories of exhilaration and temporarily eased the malaise and chagrin I, and I imagine, many others, have been feeling for the past three months.
In other words, it felt good. It felt good to feel like a relevant element of a larger collective, to feel like there could be a purpose to it all, to just know that we were not alone, to feel that, although extraordinarily faint, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. The idea that an estimated three-quarters of a million people could assemble in hopes of progress still remains a source of wonderment to me. But as Jia Tolentino from The New Yorker wrote, “…at a time of emotional paralysis and civic dissolution, the reminder that radical change is even possible is reason enough to bring people to their feet.”
And so as the crowd began to dwindle down and our legs gave out, we walked one final street before joining the flock of humans back down to the Metro: Hope St.