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The Shimmer

WOMEN’S MARCH – SAN DIEGO – January 21, 2017

It was clear that the event was going to be huge the moment we arrived at the train platform in Sorrento Valley early Saturday morning. The platform was already filling with people of all ages and colors, carrying signs and sporting “pussy hats,” the pink knitted cap that the march had adopted as a symbol of Craftivism. The normal guardedness among people broke down, and people cooed over each other’s signs and took photos. As one marcher tweeted, “Normal day on train, no one talks. Today, EVERYONE talks.” Small moments of leadership emerged as people helped each other operate the ticket machine and gave advice about the route and the weather, which looked threatening.

Then we heard that the train was already full, in Carlsbad. Sure enough, when it came by, every window was stuffed with people, pressed up against the glass, waving and smiling. The resistance was on. We called for an emergency lift from a facilitating-but-not-marching friend and were able to invite along a mother and her two young children (because it was that kind of day).

Downtown the crowd was enormous, completely overflowing the Civic Center Plaza and wreaking havoc on the surrounding streets as motorists got out of their cars to plead to be let through as streaming lines of people held them pinned. And that was before the march started. The crowd was joyous, reading signs, smiling at the kids, filled with delight at how many of us there are. People became giddy at discovering that they are not alone, that there are thousands of like-minded people who will not be divided.

Once the march got underway, when you could see people’s hats and signs and shirts and smiles, the creativity, wit, and life-affirming determination of the group was on display. “This is America,” I thought, looking around. “This is the America I know.” I stepped out at one point to try to get a sense of the crowd which stretched four lanes wide a mile back to the plaza. Thousands of people streamed past me, holding up their phones, waving signs and flags, giving thumbs up.

The signs said it all: ‘Not usually a sign guy but geez,’ ‘Dumbledore would not let this happen,’ ‘Free Melania,’ ‘Women’s rights are human rights,’ ‘I’m already against the next war,’ ‘stop the billionaires boys club,’ ‘The most dangerous minority in America is the rich,’ ‘climate change is real,’ ‘courage is contagious,’ ‘this pussy grabs back,’ ‘keep your tiny hands off my rights,’ ‘making America think again,’ ‘still queer, still black, still here,’ ‘I can’t believe I still have to protest this sh*t’ ‘the future is female,’ ‘we won’t go back – to the fifties,’ ‘we deserve better,’ ‘we go high,’ ‘you can’t combover racism.’

The front of the crowd was at the destination before some members had left the plaza. My estimation was that it was about the size of a Petco crowd on a big day, approaching 40,000.

Meanwhile I got a text reporting that 600 people had gathered in Bishop. My group cheered when I shared the news. “Go, Bishop!” one crowed. Later, as the numbers rolled in, it would become clear; millions of people worldwide had marched with us.

I got a little choked up when I saw a small boy carrying a sign that said, in child’s handwriting, ‘Money is not important. Love is.’ A little girl had brought her doll, who was carrying a tiny sign. Princess Leia was on hand; her sign read ‘A woman’s place is in the resistance.’ A tall man carried a big sign reading, ‘OMG GOP WTF.’ Another had penned, ‘Too many issues, not enough sign.’ The crowd occasionally chanted, “Love trumps hate,” “Stand up, speak out,” “¡Si, se puede!” and most enthusiastically, “Build bridges, not walls.”

The threatening skies finally opened on us, but the marchers were unperturbed and whipped out panchos on which they had already penned more slogans. As we rounded the corner on Harbor, guests on the cruise ship were standing on the top deck waving their arms at us, like folks deserted on an island, hoping to be saved. As I looked up through the shimmer at all these people waving at us from ships and buildings, I warmed with kinship and felt the power of unity. After the dark and frightening months since the election, here was a ray of hope. And it is us.

© 2017 Jennifer K. Crittenden

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