opinion : Helen Hickey

Women’s March: Millions unite against Trump and all he stands for

Helen Hickey

JANUARY 25 — We will not be silent.

This is what the resistance movement ‘Women’s March’ is about: We have a voice.

On Saturday, women, men and children, united by their sense of outrage at the appointment of Donald Trump as the 45th President of America, finally had their say.

Five million people in 600 locations across the globe marched in jubilant defiance of all that Donald J. Trump stands for, and to put woman’s rights, civil rights and basic humanity back on the agenda.

The largest women-led march took place in Washington, DC, where more than 500,000 protesters participated; three times more than had gathered for Trump’s inauguration at the Capitol just a day earlier.

People are pictured protesting against Donald Trump during the Barcelona Women's March. — Picture courtesy of Irene Boering People are pictured protesting against Donald Trump during the Barcelona Women's March. — Picture courtesy of Irene Boering As Academy award-winning film-maker Michael Moore stated during a recent New York rally: “The bad news is that as bad as we think it is, it is going to get much worse (under Trump’s presidency); but the good news is that there’s more of us than there are of them!”

Work (of the unpaid variety as opposed to my full-time job) annoyingly prevented me from joining the march in Paris, which is why I’ve asked girlfriends who marched in New York, Barcelona, Amsterdam, London and Paris, to share their experiences:

These protest messages in Amsterdam really capture the spirit of the day. ― Picture courtesy of Penny VegterThese protest messages in Amsterdam really capture the spirit of the day. ― Picture courtesy of Penny VegterMeenal marched in New York City

My Indian friend and former NYC neighbour is a fervent supporter of women’s rights, but has never taken part in a march until now. 

“It was my singular anger at Trump's election as President, what he stands for and his horrendous views on women that got me to finally attend a rally, and it was the best thing to have done; it certainly felt like we made history that day.”

Meenal marched with her 10-year-old son “because making sure he grows up a feminist is my responsibility.” He made his very own banner, inspired by his mother’s clever home-made posters.

The streets of NYC were jammed with people. “But the most heartening thing was that it wasn't just women marching, men, kids and senior citizens were too. The atmosphere was ‘electric’: people singing, chanting slogans, walking peacefully and orderly, even when the march ended in front of Trump Towers, Trump’s home. Here, a small group encouragingly sang: “The cause isn't over, the march isn't over!”

Irene marched in Barcelona

My Dutch friend marched with a cool crowd of 30 from her kid’s school ― mothers, little kids sitting on dads’ shoulders and teachers, singing and clapping while winding their way along a road lined with elegant Catalan-styled buildings.

“I went because there seems to be a global shift to the extreme right: Brexit, Le Pen in France, Geert Wilders (Trump's wannabe son) in the Netherlands, Trump etc. A shift triggered by fear of the unknown (refugees, Islam) and fuelled by demagogues like Trump, and news outlets like Fox News.  I felt that by marching, at least I am doing a little bit to stop this craziness rather than reading and cringing at another of Trump Twitter rants.

“In a way, I think it was a shame that it was called a women's march, a 'civil rights march' would perhaps have been more accurate. Women's rights, of course, being an important part of that.”

A placard in protest of Donald Trump's appointment as president of the United States is seen during during the Barcelona Women's March. — Picture courtesy of Irene Boering A placard in protest of Donald Trump's appointment as president of the United States is seen during during the Barcelona Women's March. — Picture courtesy of Irene Boering Her 16-year-old daughter also marched to give a voice to those girls around the world that have none, and because: “Things have changed for the better for women and girls, but there are still many things that are unfair.”

Penny marched in Amsterdam

This banner ‘designed to pop Trump's bubble and target his insecurities, his pathetic needy narcissism’ made the national newspapers. ― Picture courtesy of Penny VegterThis banner ‘designed to pop Trump's bubble and target his insecurities, his pathetic needy narcissism’ made the national newspapers. ― Picture courtesy of Penny VegterMy British friend and her 14-year-old daughter worked late into Friday night to complete two pithy banners made out of old sheets and bamboo sticks. They marched with 20 friends, of nationalities covering all corners of the globe.

A woman is pictured protesting against Donald Trump during the Amsterdam Women's March. — Picture courtesy of Penny Vegter A woman is pictured protesting against Donald Trump during the Amsterdam Women's March. — Picture courtesy of Penny Vegter One banner read: “Climate Change: 97% of World Scientists is NOT a Chinese Conspiracy”, in reference to Trump’s claim that the concept has been cooked up by China.

A woman is pictured protesting against Donald Trump during the Amsterdam Women's March. — Picture courtesy of Penny Vegter A woman is pictured protesting against Donald Trump during the Amsterdam Women's March. — Picture courtesy of Penny Vegter The second said: “We shall not be TRUMPLED, We shall Overcomb”, in a bid to “pop Trump’s bubble and target his insecurities, his pathetic needy narcissism.” Photos of both made the national press!

Brexit was bad, but Trump is worse.  “That the leader of the free world is a now a sexist, racist, bigoted, narcissistic, sexual predator with a compulsion to lie and questionable links to Russia and the mafia, is one thing.”

But what really worries and angers Penny is that he is a climate change denier ― he’s vowed to pull America out of or defund the Paris Climate Agreement signed by more than 190 countries.

“Climate change is an urgent issue of crucial importance to the planet and the welfare of our future generations.” Penny needed to vent her frustrations and speak out, and the Women’s March was a perfect forum.

Molly marched in London

Molly, who marched with two friends through the City of London, said her main reason for joining the protest was because of Trump's “racist, discriminatory and anti-immigrant rhetoric. That's what worries me the most.”

Julia marched in Paris

People are pictured protesting against Donald Trump during the Paris Women’s March. — Picture courtesy of JuliaPeople are pictured protesting against Donald Trump during the Paris Women’s March. — Picture courtesy of JuliaMy Australian friend marched with her French husband dressed in rainbow-coloured vests to support the lesbian and gay community ― one of the many minorities threatened by Trump’s policy positions ― and to convey a sense of hope and joy to counteract Trump’s trademark bitterness, fear and rage.

People are pictured protesting against Donald Trump during the Paris Women’s March. — Picture courtesy of JuliaPeople are pictured protesting against Donald Trump during the Paris Women’s March. — Picture courtesy of Julia“I have been incensed, ever since Donald Trump won the Republican primaries, to think that a man who espouses such misogynistic, xenophobic views and who uses bullying and intimidation as his primary means of negotiation/interaction, could hold public office.

“Furthermore, I have been horrified, as he has proceeded to outline his policy positions, to realise that the leader of such a powerful nation could negate scientific evidence of climate change, could run rough shod over human rights and could fail to uphold international agreements. The implications for the rest of the world are significant and terrifying. I had been waiting for an opportunity to express my outrage and disapproval, and this was it…”

Contrary to reports in Le Parisien (a right wing newspaper) which intimated that crowd numbers were in the vicinity of 2,000 women, Julia estimated around 20,000 people attended: women, men, old people in wheelchairs to babies in slings, and many different ethnic groups were represented; all giving an “overriding feeling of solidarity.”

Michelle also marched in Paris

People are pictured protesting against Donald Trump during the Paris Women’s March. — Picture courtesy of JuliaPeople are pictured protesting against Donald Trump during the Paris Women’s March. — Picture courtesy of JuliaMy American friend Michelle marched with her daughters, aged 11 years and 14 months, and another American mother and her daughters.

“I felt it was important to make my opposition to Trump and my unwavering support for progressive politics visible.” She also wanted her children to realise they are part of a body politic, “To know that you have to speak up for what you believe in.”

Michelle’s poster read: “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” and on the reverse “Not My President.” Her gorgeous 14-month-old daughter wore a “P ---- cap” given to her at the start of the march by a lady who had knitted them for her family and had made extras ― naturally making the cute toddler a very popular subject for photographers!

These Women’s Marches around the world have shown her that: “We are not alone… that there is no reason to feel lonely or isolated or hopeless.”

People are pictured protesting against Donald Trump during the Paris Women’s March.  — Picture courtesy of JuliaPeople are pictured protesting against Donald Trump during the Paris Women’s March. — Picture courtesy of Julia“We are the majority who were cheated by an undemocratic electoral system (and, possibly, by underhanded foreign interference) out of the chance to have a brilliant, experienced leader, and instead were handed one of history’s most pathetic heads of state — stupid, shallow, vapid, racist, misogynist and a fraud. There is strength in our numbers. Now we have to figure out what to do with it.”

Trump, through his currency of hate, fear and narcissism, has unwittingly turned bystanders into activists, and stirred the masses into a truly international movement that isn't going to die down any time soon.

A resistance movement that would be well-served by the motto of the former US president and his wife, Michelle Obama:

“When they go low, we go high.”

And if Trump’s inauguration speech is anything to go by, the lows will be very deep, and very dark.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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