I try as hard as I can to leave politics out of this blog, but when it intersects with my traveling life I try and find a way to write about it. I have decided to do the best I can in this post to write about the experience of participating in a march in Washington D.C and although my politics may bleed in a bit I will do the best I can to provide a “How To” of sorts if you ever wanted to participate in a march.
The main reason I want to share the experience is because I was so intimidated by the logistics of it and without Lee’s help I don’t think I would have had the courage to do it. Pretty ironic because it was a Women’s Rights March, but I hate crowds, big cities, and emotionally fraught events and the march certainly had many components of those things. Ultimately though it was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done and I wanted to share how we accomplished it.
One important thing you should know about many marches is that multiple groups join together to hold them. There are costs associated with a march (port-a-johns, police presence, AV support, staging, etc.) and to defray those costs several small groups might band together under one main theme. In the case of the Women’s March the main theme was to honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg and although I did not agree with every single item on the agenda, I felt strongly enough about honoring her that I wanted to participate.
It’s also important to note here that I have never publicly protested anything in my life. I have never stood on a corner, or carried a sign and until recently did not consider myself a particularly political person. This year my three daughters have inspired me with their participation in various protests and when my oldest told me about the event I decided to get more information. Ultimately I decided to attend because I thought the best way I could honor RBG was to participate in my first march. At the same time my daughter, son-in-law, and grandson were at a sister event in Charleston.
First and foremost there are not many campgrounds near DC, so we actually drove in from West Virginia. Because we planned on using public transportation we decided we needed doggie day care for Jack and for the first time ever we left him at a place for the day. Life of Riley was an absolutely wonderful experience for him and at $35 for half a day was a bargain. That being said it did require some logistical planning because they required an in person temperament check prior to the day. Lee took care of that and Jack passed with flying colors and I would absolutely recommend this place to anyone.
Lee picked it because it was close to the train station and we drove over and parked and got on the train. It was roughly a 45 minute trip into the D.C. area each way but thankfully the train was mostly empty due to COVID.
Once we arrived in downtown DC we tried to get our bearings. We were near the financial district and saw some people who were there for the march in that area as well.
The first order of business was to find a restroom. Due to COVID none of the train station restrooms were open and other places like Starbucks were closed as well. We headed towards the Washington Monument and after grabbing a picture followed a group of people thinking there would be restrooms there. Turns out that was the back entrance to the White House Rose Gardens and there were ticketed tours that day. I ended up asking an extremely nice Secret Service agent where the nearest restroom was (yes I know that’s crazy but he was in charge) and ultimately learned there was an open restroom back by the Washington Monument. We walked back and I was able to use that one thankfully. The lack of restrooms was definitely a theme for the day so keep that in mind if you are visiting during COVID.
After that was taken care of we looked around and started walking towards Freedom Plaza. That is where most protest marches start and it was easy to find with GPS. We passed several beautiful buildings and then turned a corner and saw the crowd.
Since we had time before the march started we went into the White House Visitors Center. We had to go through security to get into it, but it had some nice displays, an excellent gift shop, and a terrific bathroom.
Afterwards we went over the Freedom Plaza and things were starting to fill up. We wore our masks whenever we were near crowds and largely stayed along the edges. The mood, in general, was very uplifting although I was not a fan of most of the speeches. I wanted to complete the march but we had to wait about an hour to do so.
Finally it was time to march and I was surprised when they pulled dump trucks up and blocked the street. They did this because there have been multiple instances of people running cars into protesters and the trucks would prevent that. Up until that point I never really felt nervous or like I was in danger, but that simple act drove home that protesting in today’s world is an act of courage.
It’s hard to describe how marching felt. We mostly stayed to the edges of found open pockets in the crowds. The energy was electrifying and in those cases where it didn’t feel right we moved on. Walking down to the capital and ultimately the court house we passed the most beautiful buildings, which gave more gravity to the experience.
I had decided to not carry a sign, but many people did and most were home made. Even if I didn’t necessarily agree with the sentiment I truly appreciated the work people put into them.
As first time marchers doing it in Washington D.C. made the experience so special. And as we drew nearer to congress that feeling escalated.
Finally we turned a corner and there was the Supreme Court building. It was cordoned off and a group of Pro Life protesters had tables in front. I was feeling pretty giddy until we hit that group. Things got loud and animated between the two groups and I wasn’t interested in that at all. Lee and I took a couple of pictures and promptly walked around the side. I wanted to hold onto the positive feelings I had from the March and the negative energy from both groups was not what I felt RBG would have wanted.
It was relatively early when we were done but I told Lee I was ready to go home. It was a ton of walking and I was emotionally full for the day. We walked 1/2 mile to Union Station and thankfully their Amtrak section had one bathroom open. We took the 45 minute train ride back and picked up Jack. I am really glad that I did the March and although it wasn’t perfect it was an important day for me. If you made it this far I hope you take this post in the spirit it was intended.
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