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January 27, 2017 / thackersam

Women’s March on NYC – The Fight Begins

march-nyc-2Now that I have fully decompressed after last Saturday’s March on NYC, I want to share a little of my experience with you. Of course I let it go a wee bit longer than I should have, and though I had the opportunity to demonstrate my pointing skills that I utilized as a March volunteer as late as yesterday, the exhilaration, killed by a week at work, has faded to a great memory.

But to recap from this Sunday’s regular post, a friend suggested I go with her to the Women’s March on DC but by the time I got around to deciding I would go, there was no room on the bus. So I volunteered to help out at the one being held in Manhattan. I didn’t know if I could get anyone to walk with me, so the showing up and walking from Plaza to Tower wasn’t that big of a deal for me, and I thought I could be so much more effective behind the scenes. Besides, having spent many years in various forms of meeting and event planning, I like being part of the organization process. Give me something to do. And they did. I was assigned to crowd control on the first shift 9am-Noon, show up half an hour early.

During our first conference call about a week and a half before the March, we, including two of the organizers that were on our call, learned that we had just reached 100,000 registrants, capping the planned number on the registration site. We were all excited at the news. We were even more excited, though not surprised at the next and last conference call the night before the March, when it was announced that we hit 200,000. We had our training material and our instructions for the day, and all questions had been answered. Finally, the call ended, or would have but for that one woman who had just one more question. I had the speaker on and the phone muted, so even though I could hear the sounds of phones disconnecting, I decided to stay on the line.

I don’t recall if the question was at all relevant to me, but that woman with just one more question then had one more thing to say. She went on to thank the organizers so eloquently with a slight accent and the voice of maturity, and when she expressed how impressed she was with their ability to pull this whole thing together in such a short time, the organizers, who you could tell were gleeful for  her words, chimed in at the same time, “Eight weeks.” “Amazing,” said the woman, and as she concluded her short speech, I unmuted the phone and gave the first “here-here” which was then echoed by the smattering of volunteers that had remained on the call. Our small group now said good-night and I excitedly blurted out “see you tomorrow.” I needed to blurt as the excitement had built up inside me. I hung up the phone and turned to Max who had been watching me this whole time from him perch on the back of the couch that abuts my desk. “I think I’m going to cry,” I told him. But I already was. 

I picked up my gear that included a yellow volunteer vest sometime before 8:30 the next morning, met some lovely women and even donned a pussy hat. Anyone who knows me knows that wearing a pussy hat, using the term pussy to describe anything but a cat, or wearing pink for that matter (this does not include shades like salmon or shrimp), is just not what I do. But one of the volunteers announced to those of us lucky enough to be standing in line waiting for our assignments right behind her, that she had just started knitting, and would anyone like a pussy hat. What can I say, I got caught up in the moment. Besides, it came in very handy as I stood on the corner of 47th and Lex directing March goers to Dag Hammarskjoeld Plaza yelling “Rally this way” and utilizing my fanciest pointing moves. It got a little chilly after a while.

My station was the southeast corner so I could see the hordes of people coming at me from the west and from the south, and just had a feeling that this was going to be much more than 200,000. Groups of varying sizes were coming, and groups were meeting on every corner, some people telling me stories of protests of yore, not just the Viet Nam war, but civil and women’s rights and community issues. One woman of my age group who was there on her own, told me this was her very first March. She just wasn’t a protester, she said. But she felt she had to come today.

But it wasn’t just women, it was people of any gender that you can think of, oh so many cultures, children, husbands, whiskered men in pink pussy hats. Boomers like me and Silents, the generation before, and Generations X, Y and Z were all represented. Many thanked me for volunteering as they passed. “You’re welcome,” I’d shout out, followed by “Rally this way,” always diligently doing my job. Four hours I stood on the corner, not getting hoarse in the least thanks to my vocal exercise and chanting that is incorporated into my exercise routines. After 47th Street got so backed up that I had to start shouting for people to go to 48th, when someone approached me to tell me 48th was no better and my colleagues on the other corners were long gone, I could do nothing more. It was 1:00 and the City was packed.

It took me an hour to get back to the volunteer office as I made a wrong decision that put me smack dab in the middle of the people trying to get into the March and those who were supposed to be Marching but were mostly at a standstill. Some people would ask me why they weren’t moving, and I, who had been isolated blocks away without information stated the obvious. “A lot of people,” I said.

I finally got to hand in my yellow vest, which was the only reason I needed to return to the office, and made my way home, going south on First Avenue, where some man had all the doors open on his parked SUV blasting Brian Lehrer, who was working on a Saturday afternoon although his radio show is on WNYC weekday mornings. Crossing west somewhere below 42nd Street was a snap as there was no traffic. The March, our protest, had stopped everything up. 400,000 people showed up, I heard, and I believe it. It was crazy, and invigorating and oh so satisfying, and I can’t wait to do it again.

BTW – In case you don’t know, that’s me in the upper left of the photo with fellow volunteers.

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