The Pussy Hat Occupation

by Grayson E Sussman Squires March. 29, 2017 1390 views

My Trip to the Women's March on Washington 

Looking back, the third weekend in January, 2017 seems splintered into a weekend of extremes. The only constant that seemed to span the Inauguration of President Trump on Friday and the Women's March on Saturday was the blanket of clouds that covered Washington. I spanned those days too. I ventured out into both those crowds. The following is an account of what I found on Saturday, January 21, 2017 in Washington, D.C..

From the story The Pussy Hat Occupation- Jan. 21, 2017.

Everybody needs coffee, whether you're geared up to clash with rioters or you've donned a pussy hat to stick it to the President.

Lets get something right out of the way. President Trump asserted on multiple occasions after the Women's March that his Inauguration crowd was the larger, and even more preposterously, that his crowd was the largest Inauguration crowd ever. Photo evidence of from the Inaugurations of President Obama and President Trump demonstrates quite clearly that Mr. Obama's crowd was larger. 

As for a comparison of the size of the Women's March to the Inaugural crowd, although I am no expert in estimating crowd size, I can firmly and truthfully say that the Women's March included more persons. I saw both crowds from the same vantage point, and there was really no comparison. Mr. Trump has stated falsities prior to this one, and has continued his unfortunate habit even after this claim was disproven. 

From the story The Pussy Hat Occupation- Jan. 21, 2017.

"A woman's place is in the House and the Senate."

But back to the story at hand. I left my local contact's house early on Saturday morning, quickly stopping for a bite to eat and stumbling upon three young D.C. Metro cops in full riot gear. They were chatting with some middle aged folks from the Midwest. I speed walked against the constant flow of Marchers streaming from Union Station towards the Capitol. I strode against this influx towards the station to meet up with my family. I picked up more coffee in the station with an Amtrak cop from California who had been flown in for extra station security. He lived and breathed that SoCal lifestyle. He loved his job, he loved people, and he exuded that. I liked him. I tried to pay for his coffee. He didn't let me. 

My family and friends from New York in tow, I led them back towards the Capitol. The Human river flowed down hill towards the Mall. I knew I needed mobility to capture the day. I kissed Mom goodbye. I borrowed Dad's phone, as mine had inconveniently broken the night before. I pushed forward. 

From the story The Pussy Hat Occupation- Jan. 21, 2017.

Mr. President, size isn't everything, but some crowds are bigger than others.

The March, as an organized activity, seemed nonexistent. Just hundreds of thousands of people clogging the Mall and all the streets surrounding it. I left my family near the stage where perhaps ten percent of the marchers could hear, and less than that could see the speakers. The rest of the protesters spread out all over the Mall, shutting down all traffic on Madison and Jefferson Avenues, with people clogging up the numbered streets all the way from Constitution to Independence Avenues. 

I tried to cross the Mall from Independence, near where the speakers spoke out to their captivated, stuck-in-place fraction, to the other side of the Mall, where I hoped some space might open up for people to March. The Mall proved as easy to cross as a pool full of glue. I found a tall electrical box where I could take photos from a vantage point. I shared the estimated twelve square feet of surface area with five others. The cast of characters rotated. I stayed, the only constant. People passed me their phones so I could take photos for them. 

I coordinated an impromptu search system. When people came to us, they told us the name of their missing friend or relative. I led chants of that person's name, sprinkling a shouted description. Our system had a 60 percent success rate of locating missing companions. 

From the story The Pussy Hat Occupation- Jan. 21, 2017.

Historically, struggles have often relied on art to rally the cause. This was no different.

Atop my lofty vantage point, I spoke in great length to an elderly marcher. She told me very many interesting things. She made me promise to send her the photos I took. Her attitude was one of bemusement that she still had to come out and protest for the same things she had been protesting for in her youth. That sentiment echoed around me from the veteran protesters I spoke to, as did the feeling of having taken two steps forward, one step back. 

I left that safe perch, pushing out across the Mall. For a long time it was futile. I finally found an alley. I bolted under the canopy of pink Pussy hats. Whether homemade or not, they covered heads for acres around. I made it over to Madison, found it clogged, and strained to see that so too was Constitution. I moved from high point to high point, escaping the crowd as much as possible. I spent time on traffic lights, utility boxes, trucks, mobile police observation towers, piled barricades, and flood lights. 

From the story The Pussy Hat Occupation- Jan. 21, 2017.

The Lion King- except for a mane, he has a pussy hat, and instead of being a lion, he's a baby.

The added height gave the passersby an idea that I knew what was going on. I didn't. I kept telling them where I thought I could see space opening up. They asked how many people there were; I responded that it was one huge crowd as far as I could see.

Finally, the march got moving, but in no orderly fashion. Splintering factions of tens, if not hundreds of thousands strong, broke off in every direction. I found myself with an army of over one hundred thousand marchers. One elderly woman raised her hand and yelled "let's take it to the White House!" A roar like I'd never before heard went up. 

The streets shut down as we marched forward. We passed the Trump Hotel on Pennsylvania Ave. The crowd roared again and slowed. They hurled abuse. They chanted "shame." Someone threw a soda cup. The crowd descended on the throwers, yelling "PEACE!" A couple exited the hotel into the midst of the marchers. The protesters dogged them with verbal assaults and attacks. But they did not touch. 

From the story The Pussy Hat Occupation- Jan. 21, 2017.

A protester brandishes her middle finger towards the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Ave..

They marched on. A shuddering sound came from a side street. It was mechanical; revving and humming through the canyon of the streets. I reached the corner of the side street and looked down. A large pickup truck towed a parade float decked out with American flags and massive metal lettering spelling out "TRUMP." It was a "Bikers For Trump" float. They faced down the side street perpendicular to the flowing marchers. Surrounding the truck and float were eight or so D.C. Metro motorcycle cops. When the crowd caught a glimpse of this lumbering float gingerly backing down the side street, another roar went up. They charged! I followed.

My camera's battery died as we reached the police motorcycle perimeter. The crowds swarmed from all sides, preventing the truck and trailer from backing up any further. Protesters jammed in between the motorcycles, getting right up to the truck and the float. Trump supporters on the float looked dizzyingly around at the newfound foe beneath them. The D.C. Metro cops could not hold the perimeter.

From the story The Pussy Hat Occupation- Jan. 21, 2017.

Celebrities turned out to the March as well. Here, Performance Artist Matthew Silver creates a spectacle around which the Marchers passed.

The protesters began plastering the truck with liberal and anti-Trump items. They stuck rainbow flags to the truck and float. One protester ripped an American flag down from the float, announcing he intended to appropriate the flag from their malicious intent. He threw it into the crowd. It drifted down like a feather, alighting around my neck; I wore it as a scarf for the remainder of the day.

Inside the cab of the truck, one young passenger, probably 16 years old, put his hands out the slightly opened windows, forming his fingers into a heart. 

From the story The Pussy Hat Occupation- Jan. 21, 2017.

 They came from every state, and every walk of life, all believing in the same message of one united America. Their ideals clashed with the vision presented by the other half of the divide the day before in that very same place.

The shouting matches then began between the protesters and float-riders. They varied in intensity. Chants echoed around the scene: "SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!" and "HEY! HEY! HO! HO! DONALD TRUMP HAS GOT TO GO!" The boos deafened and drowned out the debates. Finally, D.C. Metro reinforcements arrived. Some 20 to 30 strong, they reformed the perimeter and allowed the truck to turn around. The truck got the hell out of there. 

I can't say if that group made it to the White House. I left soon after the float incident concluded. I walked back up towards the Capitol to rendezvous with my people. The streets were littered with signs and trash and refuse from the march. They were also clogged with bedraggled and exhausted marchers. Protesters slumped at bus stops, lined up outside restaurants, stood around engrossed in their phones, and updated excited statuses. 


From the story The Pussy Hat Occupation- Jan. 21, 2017.

It was also a prime opportunity for candidates to converse with potential voters. Longtime Presidential Candidate Vermin Supreme spoke to voters about his "reelection bid" in 2020. He said he was the President.

The march had devolved into a chaos of hundreds of thousands of people in a small area without a common communication network to direct them. I couldn't see any speakers anywhere, let alone hear them. I saw perhaps a tenth of the true volume of people there that day. If I can capture anything from that day in these photos and words, I hope it can be a sense of the pure number of people. Finding individual stories within such a vast group proved a daunting task. It was difficult to speak with anyone when they were all preoccupied with staying together within their smaller groups. 

In the midst of all that vast number of persons, I felt claustrophobic, yet alone. I believe the march succeeded. I hope it reminded the President that for all his newfound rhetoric of unity, he still presides over a divided nation. It did prove that a resistance could bloom from the new political wasteland. It put the people back into democracy after an election that alienated so many.


From the story The Pussy Hat Occupation- Jan. 21, 2017.

On Nov. 18, 2016, the cast of Hamilton expressed their feelings about the election quite plainly to Vice President Pence. President Trump claimed they harassed Pence. Pence stated he was not offended. Lin Manuel Miranda's quote became an instant meme.


  Be the first to like this post
Join the conversation
0
Be the first one to comment on this post!
Up
Copyright @Photoblog.com