To The Barricade
I never marched in a demonstration before yesterday. I don’t like crowds much, or noise, or commotion. I’m a stay-at-home-with-a-book kind of a girl, a write-a-quiet-blog person. So, a day in New York City spent pressed together with four hundred thousand chanting, shouting, people, wouldn’t normally be a big draw for me. After months of complaining, however, before, during, and after the election, and after two-and-a-half months of foolishness from the winner of that election, I felt like I had to put my money where my mouth was, or my legs anyhow, and get myself down to New York.
I drove to the train station yesterday morning with my sign wrapped in black plastic. I didn’t know what to expect, frankly. I thought there might be people on the train who would heckle me, Trump supporters who realized what I was up to. As I got out of my car, I looked around the parking lot apprehensively, trying to see who else was around, and what sort of people they might be. I looked to see if I was alone.
What I saw were car doors opening and women in pink cat hats emerging from all corners of the parking lot. I saw them carrying signs large and small. I saw them come in all ages, shapes, and sizes. I saw them come in parkas and camel’s hair coats and hoodies. I saw them come disheveled, and I saw them come impeccably groomed.
The platform, when I got down to it, was full of women and girls, and men, too, carrying signs. None were wrapped in black plastic. My prudence seemed suddenly foolish to me, even cowardly, though my sign was painful, and much as I wanted it to be seen, I was also sensitive about sharing it. No Grizzlies in Newtown. I’d written. #LetKidsLive
A train had departed as I was parking, and a girl waiting on the platform told me that it had been completely packed with people going to the demonstration. She was clearly delighted about this and gave a little “Yay!” and a hop on the bench as she said it. We watched together as more cars pulled up and more pink-hatted women jumped out of them. It was clear that our train would be packed as well.
As we made our way down the line, through Golden’s Bridge and Valhalla and White Plains, more and more people got on. Make America Think Again, We Will Not Give Up Our Human Rights, With Liberty and Justice for All. The signs were clever, angry, and too numerous to count. We were half-way to New York before a young conductor finally presented himself. He punched only a few tickets, however, before retreating back into the car he came from.
“Too much estrogen,” the woman across from me said and we all laughed, a bit wildly, especially two older ladies sitting with us who were on their way into the city to do lunch.
Grand Central when we got there was total bedlam. There were groups of cat-eared marchers everywhere, taking selfies, texting, getting something to eat and drink before the march began. The organizers had prepared for one hundred thousand. Four hundred thousand came. As a result, we stood for hours in our step-off locations. We were waiting for the hordes of people to be channeled along Forty-Second Street and up Fifth Avenue to as close as you can get to Trump Tower these days, to The Barricade.
And no one was cross or nasty. No one pushed or shoved. Everyone was in good, dare I say even great humor. As the hours passed, we talked, texted, read other people’s signs. I saw a sister sign across Second Avenue: a picture of Betsy Devos and a Grizzly. One of these candidates is unqualified, it read, and the other is a bear.
Drones buzzed us from time to time and we waived and shouted and help our signs to the sky. People waved from their windows and balconies, or hung banners from scaffolding roofs. When we finally got closer to where Trump Tower rises glassy and cold into the Manhattan sky, there were signs of support from Trump’s neighbors. Not for Trump, mind you, but for us. The windows of Victoria’s Secret were bathed in pink light. The shoe salesmen at Ferragamo waved to us from their empty store, and the salespeople from Versace came out on the balcony to take pictures. Even the organist at St. Thomas, where Mr. Trump possibly doesn’t go as often as he should, played Go Tell It on the Mountain to roaring and appreciative crowds.
And let me just say, before the midnight “ a few bitter women in pant suits” tweet, we overflowed the barricades. The march was wall to wall. There were plenty of men there as well. There were girls and boys. There were families with babies and young children. There was every color. There were people in wheelchairs. There was an older man using a cane who walked next to me for a few blocks supported by his daughter.
“Let me see your sign,” he said and then nodded when he read it. “Did you come from Connecticut?” someone else asked. A group of girl scouts, or at least they looked like girl scouts, were chanting: This is what democracy looks like. As the barricade came into view, a man with a cow bell began what had to be the best chant of the day: We want a leader, not a creepy tweeter.
The march went on for hours, the long river of people flowing to the barricade and then diverting right or left. We went left and had an early dinner somewhere. The wait staff, smiling, grinning, stopped to read our signs. “No one likes Trump in New York,” my companions, New Yorkers, told me. “Except on Staten Island. They love him over there.”
As the light faded over the city, the trains that had arrived that morning from Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and beyond, packed with people, started departing again, packed with the same people taking their signs home. “We may need these again.” I heard a woman say to her companion. “Next weekend.” The companion replied and laughed. Everyone was tired, but everyone was still in good humor.
Why did we do it? Why did we march? There are a thousand reasons. Someone’s sign read: “I can’t fit it all on one sign.” For me; however, it boils down to this. I want them to know I’m here, and I’m not happy. I want them to know that I’m watching, and that I’m not going away.