On Saturday, my family traveled to Seattle for my eleven-year-old’s Lego Robotics competition. It was the Washington State semifinals, for which my son’s team of fifth-graders had qualified at the local competition in December. The semifinals happened to be on the same day as the Women’s Marches, and because the competition required that kids have parental supervision all day, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to join in the march. But I did at least want to see it–to witness what I knew might be one of the most important collective actions of my lifetime–and to cheer on the marchers. I also hoped to be able to take my son to see what one form of nonviolent resistance looks like.
As it turned out, the only break parents had from the robotics competition was during the kids’ project presentations. So while our kids’ team was sequestered with the judges, several other parents and I dashed outside to try to find the march. For safety reasons, march organizers didn’t announce the exact route ahead of time, but we were guessing that it would pass through the north part of downtown on 4th Avenue, just a few blocks from the Amazon building where we were.
We did indeed find the march. As we got to the intersection of 4th Avenue and Virginia, police were blocking off the cross-streets. A line of officers on motorcycles assembled across the lanes and slowly moved forward to clear the route for the marchers. Then twenty or more bicycle officers arranged themselves along the curbs. Finally, the leaders of the march, a group of Native American drummers, approached, quietly singing. We couldn’t hear them very well, because a news helicopter was hovering directly above, but the sight was stunning. As the front of the march got nearer, the bicycle cops began slowly pedaling along, making sure the way was clear.
Something unique about the Seattle march was its intentional silence. To me, this was one of its most moving features. The marchers acknowledged the cheers of those of us on the curb by bobbing their signs and sometimes waving to us. It was terrifically powerful, on several occasions, to make eye contact with a marcher and exchange a smile of solidarity.
Here’s a sampling of the photos I took showing some of my favorite signs:
I was disappointed that my son couldn’t be present to see this demonstration of peaceful collective engagement. The participation of so many children, both in the march and as supporters, made a powerful statement of its own. But afterwards, when I showed him the video footage I took on my phone, he watched with fascination as the marchers approached and streamed by.
Soon the march stretched to the farthest visible points both up and down 4th Avenue. Two news helicopters continued to hover over the march, filming. Shortly after we tore ourselves away and hurried back to the Amazon building, local news reported that the front of the march was arriving at its destination near the Space Needle, and marchers were still leaving from the starting point in Judkins Park, 3.6 miles away. (Here’s a time-lapse video of the entire Seattle march from King 5 News.) Organizers had planned for 50,000-75,000 marchers to participate; the actual number swelled to some 130,000, or possibly as many as 175,000. In spite of this overwhelming turnout, the entire demonstration was peaceful and unmarred by violence.
Before witnessing the march, I confess that I’d been slowly losing ground to despair. Since the election, my thoughts about the state of the world have vacillated between “bleak” and “OMFG we’re in 1936 Germany, panic NOW.” I’ve even considered warning my son–a gentle and loving boy who adores his gentle and loving father, and who, though he has promising talents in golf, basketball, and robotics coding, wants most of all some day to be a dad–I’ve considered warning him that to protect himself from despair, to raise his chances of surviving an increasingly likely environmental apocalypse, and to safeguard his own heart, he probably should not have children.
The march turned me around. Just being close to it, experiencing it from the curb, electrified me, restarted my stalled courage. It gave me my hope back. Hope, you see, is one area I’ve always been deficient in. Hope is a nutrient I don’t seem to have been born with much of, or which I depleted very young, and no amount of research, theology, or reassuring news analysis has sufficiently supplemented it for me. But witnessing the march gave me a potent and energizing dose.
This isn’t to say that things aren’t going to get really bad. Clearly, things are bad already, and we’re only at Day 4. But I see, now, having glimpsed the power of our joining together, how we can resist.