Some of the mostly pink and purple signs people held above their heads at the 2018 L.A. Women's March were playful, layered with a humorous overcoat, such as the sign that said, “If You Take Away My Birth Control, I'll just Make More Feminists.”
Other signs, however, revealed the sincere pain that brought many out to march on the remarkably clear and crisp morning of Saturday, Jan. 20, like one that began with, “On June 26th from 6pm-10pm I was raped…” The woman's poster went on to describe the unparalleled support she received from the local Planned Parenthood in El Monte.
The signs people carried revealed the range of reasons women and men alike marched on Saturday — anger, frustration, hope, and fear: Stop Trump Now!,” “The Future Is Female,” “Trump's Lies Matter!,” “Time's Up,” “Vote 2018,” “Donald Trump is just NOPE,” “What Oprah Said.”
They also, however, revealed a principle shared by all: This march was an opportunity to be heard, it was an opportunity to take action.
Last year on Jan. 21, 2017, the Women's March, above all else, was healing. Many were devastated by Donald Trump's election — not knowing what the future would hold. Ilene, a 38-year old attorney from Long Beach who brought her two daughters to the WMLA last year and Saturday, spoke to this point. “Last year the election was really traumatizing and coming last year was … well, I don't even know the words to use, but it just felt so good — to see other people feeling what I was feeling,” Ilene said. “I just want to be the best role model for my kids, and I think making them aware of what is out there for them is so important.”
Ilene looked at her daughter, who she was holding in her arms, and continued, “I hope that she enjoys this, and remembers it, and thanks me later for keeping her a part of it.”
Victor Garcia, a 22-year-old from Glendale, also spoke about his emotions last year following Trump's election. “I marched at the Women's March last year in Boston,” Garcia said. “It was one of those moments where you really felt the pain that people were going through. People said it was a rough night [when Trump was elected to office] and everything, but really the thoughts that went through my mind, I'll be very frank, were dark. I was thinking, 'what will this mean for all the LGBTQ people who now have Mike Pence as the vice president?'”
He sighed. “It was a terrifying thought for a gay person, like myself. But at the Women's March last year, it was such a release to be out there with everyone who was venting their anger or finding solace in other people who were hurting in a similar fashion.”
This year, the reasons that compelled people to march were multi-dimensional. It was not just about coming together and finding hope in each other's shared sorrow. After a year of Trump's presidency, people are no longer frozen in disbelief. Instead, they are looking forward and want to take action.
Jennifer, 28, from Pasadena, felt that the march was more than a place to complain about President Trump. “The march is about remembering that marching for women's right is important, and not just because of the current president,” she said. “It's more about what we can do as a community to bring attention to things that we can accomplish right now — like women running for office, or changing policy and laws, and not just complaining.”
Garcia said the 2018 Women's March also served as a platform for him to promote Delaine Easton, a candidate for California governor. “I think if Easton is going to be heard, especially now, people need to start backing her early,” he said. “I am here today because this is a group of people who have never heard of her and they are the people who need to listen to someone like her. We need a change in California.
“If Delaine gets into office, we are going to see more women, younger people, more LGBTQ people — which is what we need right now so that California can be a beacon of hope for the rest of the country,” he said.
Undeniably, resistance and anger toward the current government were as much a theme at this year's march as at last year's. A 50-year-old man at Saturday's march who chose not to give his name said that he was there to combat what he described as a fascist regime. “All of our democratic norms are eroding right now,” he said. “When fascism or proto-fascism comes to a democracy, it doesn't come to announce itself. It is a slow encroachment.”
Joanne, 58, had an alternative perspective. She said that marching was her duty as a good patriot. “It is our duty to protect our government,” she said, looking down at her sign with the words of one of America's founding fathers: “The duty of a patriot is to protect his country from his government — Thomas Paine.”
“I think we are all patriots because we care about the government and know that what we are seeing is wrong,” she said.”
Ultimately though, the shared theme in everyone's reason for marching on Saturday was because it felt good to march — it felt good to be a part of something bigger than just oneself. Briana Gonzales, 17, wasn't able to come to the march last year but looked around and said that the group this year felt like a family coming together. “I like to empower people around me, both men and women because that is what I feel being a feminist is. Being here with a bunch of people who feel the same way as I do, I feel that I am part of a family that is greater than you can imagine.”
Olivia, a freshman at Loyola Marymount University in Playa Vista, echoed this belief. “Feeling the energy from all these people, feeling so much positivity, so much support from each other — it is such an incredible feeling,” she said.
As women, children and men gathered in Pershing Square and marched through the streets of downtown Los Angeles, the prevailing emotion was not the despair or shock that many had felt last year. The sound of steady drumming and the smell of sizzling sausages and onions being sold by local vendors peppered the dancing, shouting, and hand-holding, the bright pinks of the iconic Women's March hats, and ultimately the permanent smiles that people wore as they walked revealed that above all else, this was a demonstration of joy and unity.
The importance and sincerity of the March's underlying purpose were not lost among these positive displays, and the scattered counter-protests projecting anti-feminist messages were sharp reminders of the sizable work to be done.
Nonetheless, the rhythmic chanting of “Love not hate makes America great!,” “We, the people, will never be defeated” and “This is what democracy looks like!” had inflections of hope and happiness — because this year, at the 2018 L.A. Women's March, we knew we were making progress.