Exact numbers are impossible to know, but this past Saturday an estimated 175,000 people gathered in Boston Common for the Boston Women’s March for America. They joined over 600 sister marches, in every single state and on all seven continents, in a worldwide protest of the hate, bigotry, and ignorance espoused by Donald Trump’s campaign, his nominated cabinet, and the Orange Man on his first day in office.
Turnout was incredible. In Boston, one of the five largest marches in the country, the crowd stretched from the State House clear across the Common and spilled out onto Boylston Street.
While feminists rejoiced around the globe, it was important to ask—where was everybody on Election Day? Where were you the last time Planned Parenthood came under attack? Where were you during Black Lives Matter demonstrations?
Nevertheless, marches held last weekend were a major and visible mass testament to the degree to which the Trump platform and presidency have insulted not only the nation, but the world. They also shone a bright light into the dark, ugly corners of mainstream liberalism where prejudice and privilege fondle each other.
Saturday showed that we have the chance to stop that.
The level of political correctness that went into curating the speakers for the Boston march was glaring: indigenous women, black women, queer women—leaders worked hard to get minority voices heard. In response, people listened. And they cheered.
Calls for solidarity came from all speakers, from Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, to former Boston Women’s Fund Executive Director Hayat Imam, to Senator Elizabeth Warren, to Tanisha Sullivan, president of the Boston branch of the NAACP. Also on hand: Senator Ed Markey and Leslie Jonas, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s head of operations.
“There are more of us than there are of them,” said Mass Attorney General Maura Healey. “This is what love trumping hate looks like.”
“Divisions among us do not make any sense my friends,” Imam said. “Because all of these issues affect all of us. Organize on your issues and show up as allies for other issues.”
In a speech that touched on the profusion of inequality in American society, from a broken criminal justice system to the millions who work full-time and are stuck in poverty, Senator Warren noted that access to opportunity has been “badly tilted in favor of those at the top for a generation,” and that Trump and a Republican Congress “are ready to tilt it even further.”
“We come here to stand shoulder to shoulder to make clear we are here we will not be silent, we will not play dead, we will fight for what we believe in,” Warren said. “First we fight for basic dignity and respect for every human being, period.”
Senator Markey pointed to the racism of wage inequality, citing how a white woman makes 70 cents on the dollar compared to her male colleagues, and how a black woman earns 66 cents with Latinas paid 59 cents.
“To be clear, despair, my sisters, has no place here, and cynicism is not welcome,” said local NAACP President Sullivan. She continued, “Here we march through our fear to racial and gender equality. We march through great uncertainty in pursuit of justice for all.”
Us. We. All. These were the words of the day. While differences in experience, race, gender, and class separated the speakers, as well as the people marching in Boston, the emerging call was for people to vault their differences and show up for each other.
“There are many sisters and brothers who are not here because they’re behind bars, and there are workers who are afraid of being deported, young women being heckled, indigenous people still waiting for this country to honor its treaties,” said master of ceremonies Mariama White-Hammond, a minister at the Bethel AME Church in Jamaica Plain. Speaking to the fears and persecution that minority communities face on a regular basis, White-Hammond continued with an exercise.
“Take a moment to lock eyes with someone you don’t know, and say, with your eyes, three things.”
I see you.
I stand with you.
And we stand together.
A lot of press surrounding the marches has highlighted the slacktivism of attendants, the myopic view of oppression held by many white women, as well as the political opportunism and privilege (so, so much privilege) swirling—and none of these reports are wrong. If this many people showed up for a march now that all women’s rights—not just the rights of black women, or queer women—are under attack, then what does that say about our brand of progressivism?
Certainly all things to think about.
Meanwhile, if we make good on the promise—to look out for each other—that millions who came out to stand up to bigotry on Saturday made, we might actually get somewhere.
I see you. I stand with you. And we stand together.
Haley is an AAN Award-winning columnist for DigBoston and Mel magazine and has contributed to publications including the Boston Globe and helped found Homicide Watch Boston. She has spearheaded and led several Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism investigations including a landmark multipart series about the racialized history of liquor licensing in Massachusetts, and for three years wrote the column Terms of Service about restaurant industry issues from the perspective of workers.