My naive assumption I would reach Downtown LA all the way from Santa Monica didn’t take into consideration the other 750,000 people who were also making their way to Pershing Square.
The sheriff at the turnstile waived us through with a smile. “If we expect each and every one of you to stop at the booth to buy a ticket, you will be here all day. Get in.”
The metro, usually deserted, was Tokyo-style. I took a deep breath and pushed my way in, then rode, like a sardine, wedged between a burly, bearded man and a woman with a stroller who sort of kept me upright. I saw patience, and courtesy, and a willingness to help fellow men and women (and silently thanked everyone who chose to take a shower before setting off).
I followed the mass of humanity, along the streets, to the designated start. Everybody smiled, everybody wanted to be there, everybody helped.
I saw women with small children. An extraordinary amount of men. Entire families on a sunny day out.
I saw an elderly lady trotting along with a walker, earning the prize for most effort.
I saw a grande dame, in a wheelchair, swaddled in pink fur.
I saw a gay Puerto Rican woman, with a disabled teenager, doggedly hopping along.
I saw drummers, keeping the crowd in rhythm.
I saw young women, claiming the rights and equality they have known since birth and older women, who already fought long before Roe v Wade became the law of the land.
“I can’t believe I am still fighting for this shit” some signs read.
I saw punks and housewives and Latino women and African-American women and Native American women: every corner of Los Angeles and beyond was represented.
More streets had to be closed on the spur of the moment to allow the crowd to surge to City Hall. There were chants, and signs, and speeches I never heard because the human mass extended too far – reaching City Hall became improbable.
What I didn’t see was anger or violence or vindictiveness. Despite the anger that brought us all there.
The road is long. The battles uphill. The President completely unhinged already, lamenting the media downplayed the amount of people who attended his inauguration. But start somewhere did we have to. And we did. Now it’s on to town halls, and courts of law, and Congress.
I saw a lot of willingness to help build a better, more just world, even for those who are fighting against basic principles of equality. I did not feel threatened but, rather, embraced. A thought to remember during the darkest days ahead.
A big, big thank you to the City of Los Angeles for doing an outstanding job at managing the unprecedented crowds.
To Bottega Louie – and every other business on the route – for opening their doors and letting us use the facilities (when marching, always pick the swankiest restaurant if the need to pee strikes).
To the young man who offered us crackers on the subway.
To the police for being helpful and unobtrusive.
And, above all, to the two women whose small thought transformed an entire day around the world. It’s good to see that when women are called into action, they show up.