The women's marches, held in more than 600 locations around the world on Saturday, illustrated one thing for certain. There are a lot of people who care. About everything. Women's issues, healthcare, education, immigration, voting rights, the environment. You name it.
The handmade signs in the crowds spoke for themselves. A sampling: "Women's rights are human rights," "Love (not hate) makes America great," "Black lives matter," "Bridges, not walls," "Equal pay," and "Respect your mother earth." An oversized chalkboard was set up in Los Angeles, which simply said, "I march for..." and people wrote in the reasons for their participation. So many people wrote on the board that it was virtually unreadable by the end of the day. Were there some nasty signs directed at Trump? Sure. "Still not my president" and "Fake 45" were in evidence too. But they appeared outnumbered by the more positive, issue-oriented slogans. Because for these crowds, the issues mattered.
The marches attracted a diverse group of people, crossing genders, ages, and colors, and were marked by a notable joie de vivre. Frankly, this upbeat, energetic tone surprised me. I was expecting to see a little more stridency in the video feeds, a more defiant attitude. Instead, there were little girls carrying signs, families holding hands, and hand-knit pink hats bobbing everywhere. My friends who attended the events confirmed this atmosphere. There was unity, solidarity, and a fearlessness to speak out in just the way that our first amendment intended. More hopeful determination than fear.
But if you think about it, we've spent eight years learning from a pro. President Obama, despite what you think of his policies, had an unwaveringly hopeful attitude, even in the face of massive obstructionism from Republicans and likely racism in too many areas of his life to count. Yet, he modeled civil discourse at every turn. Through the final days of his presidency, he gave the Trump team his full support and counsel during the transition of power.
In contrast, Trump and his press secretary, Sean Spicer, decided to spend the day of the women's marches assailing the media's estimates of inauguration crowds. "Honestly, it looked like a million and a half people," said Trump, despite photographic evidence and ridership numbers on public transportation that tell a different story. Spicer layered on the confusion in a hostile press conference saying, "No one had numbers [about the inauguration crowds]" combined with "This is the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period." Spicer gave no factual evidence to support either statement. It was a hapless attempt to bolster Trump's crowds on a day when attention had turned to marches around the world, whose attendance exceeded expectations in many locations.
The facts as reported by credible media estimates of the women's marches throughout the world are pretty impressive. The media—yes, those pesky people whose job it is to uncover facts and disseminate unvarnished truths—have estimated that the crowds in Washington, D.C., approached 500,000, more than double the number that organizers had expected. Chicago: 150,000. Boston: 125,000. Concord, NH: 5,000. The list goes on.
Even more important, no violent outbreaks were reported during these marches that, combined, attracted more than a million people. Possibly way more. But let's not argue the exact crowd estimates. Let's focus on the essential phenomenon of the women's marches. Police and marchers co-existed in an orderly fashion. The right to assemble was exercised. Peaceful resistance reigned.
The marches themselves may have proved that love really does trump hate. They also owe a debt to the man I believe led us here, by example. The old-school community organizer showed us how to resist, how to speak up. Careful, plodding persistence. Clear-eyed passion. Respectful airing of views. Turns out, a whole lot of people were absorbing President Obama's quietly determined ways over the past eight years. We the people took his message of hope and change to the streets. Yes, yes, we can. We just did.