Women’s March on Washington: Portland Style

22 Jan
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Courtesy of Stefan Dietz via Flickr

Yesterday, I was one of those who was going to stay away from the crowds of the Women’s March in downtown Portland. I am all for marches and protests, especially peaceful ones, but I also suffer from some anxiety surrounding these types of events. It’s not claustrophobia, but it does in a sense carry some of those connotations. To a certain extent, if I’m being truly honest here, I also kind of just didn’t want to be bothered. Bothered to go out into a cold, rainy day. To try and find a bathroom where the line isn’t half a mile long. To make sure I didn’t get pepper sprayed or get caught up in violence. To be on my feet all day.

My friend Claudia had stayed the night with me and she was getting ready for the March while I puttered around the kitchen, sorting out my day. She said, Why aren’t you going again? I said, Well, I have some things to do, and then an appointment, and…yeah. Kinda shaky excuses. Claudia, being one of my dearest friends, looked me in the eye and replied,

What will you say when future generations ask you if you were at the Women’s March on January 21, 2017? I had a hair appointment, the traffic was bad? I’m gonna say I joined thousands in a beautiful day of solidarity.

Well that arrow hit its target right on the nose. I packed my backpack with a hastened clump of waterproof clothing, snacks, hydration, wet wipes, and we were off to catch the bus. The first one flew by our stop, packed front to back with passengers. The collective groaning of a dozen people let loose on cue. Luckily, I live by a frequent service stop with several bus lines, so about seven minutes later another one came and it was only about half full. Huzzah!

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Ready to roll out!

We got off the bus and headed to the spot where we were meeting other marchers. Claudia and I hadn’t exactly planned our entrance very well, and since we were already running late, had expected we’d just grab some food somewhere and take it with us to the march. Except every quick/fast service restaurant was packed with protesters. And it was pouring rain, so eating outside wouldn’t be as effortless as we had imagined in our head. And even if we did manage to eat our food without first soaking it in Portland’s famous “weather au jus,” we were standing butt-to-butt, and, since I’m so short, I’d most likely be eating a burrito to the tune of someone’s accidental elbow throw. That just didn’t sound fun to me. So Claudia and I broke off from the group to get something solid in our stomachs a little farther out, with the intention that we would meet up with the other ladies again later. We went to Thirsty Lion, since it’s huge inside and they are usually prepared for crowds. The restaurant was quite full, but we got seated right away. Our waitress was super! She was quick during a very busy time, answered our questions expertly, and best of all, helped us in a tiny way that had a huge impact. I asked her if she had two trash bags that we could have. At first she didn’t understand. I explained the beauty of how trash bags make fantastic makeshift raincoats! In the short half hour or so we’d been outside, Claudia and I were already partially soaked and it was not looking like it would let up any time soon. She came back with two industrial trash bags. They were gigantic—and perfect! We set up our new look. Rip a neck hole, two arm holes, help your neighbor put it up and over the her backpack, and there you go! We looked like two drowned rats with hump backs! Trés chic!

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I didn’t know what to expect when we re-entered the crowd. I know the protests the night before had drawn all sorts of agendas, both peaceful and a little less so. There were flash-bang devices discharged, pepper spray dispensed, and a lot of anger spread out over the city, held mostly at bay by the Portland Police. I protested in the past during the Iraq War. Back then the police I experienced were much different. Instead of trying to prevent conflicts from arising and helping to keep the protests contained, they would bait protesters into angry reactions, thereby enabling them to “legally” detain protesters. I’m not sure when they beefed up their training on civil unrest events, but I have to hand it to them—they have recently done a much better job overseeing the crowds. (This is just my opinion. Feel free to comment below if your experience has been different.) Instead of putting on a show as tyrannical monoliths of punishment, they displayed their humanity. Cops with pink pussy hats on waved us on. Most of them smiled broadly at us as we walked by. I tried to thank as many as I could, because let’s face it, no matter how you feel personally about the police, you must understand that theirs is a tough job.

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The energy was palpable. Everyone there was a cousin of the spirit! We laughed maniacally in the rain, danced in the sloppy mud mosh pit, shouted chants of positivity, squished butt-to-butt with our new friends, giggled at the amazing creativity of the signs, and most of all, came together with the intention of unity.

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When the younger generation asks me where I was on January 21, 2017, I’ll tell them I was right there alongside the most beautiful, diverse, and loving group of people I have ever known.

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9 Responses to “Women’s March on Washington: Portland Style”

  1. Catherine Ryan Grego (@TenThouHourMama) January 23, 2017 at 1:35 pm #

    Good for you for going. I was out of town so went to the march in Newport. Yes, we got totally rained on. But going was SO worthwhile. It felt amazing to be a part of something larger, and to make myself seen and not only heard (or read).

    • beckydancer February 8, 2017 at 8:34 am #

      So glad you could make it to the Newport March! I bet that one was just as rainy, if not rainier, than Portland’s. Thank you for being a part of history.

  2. sweetrevengepdx January 23, 2017 at 1:55 pm #

    so glad you were able to overcome your fears and participate in such a beautiful and meaningful event! it was absolutely amazing!!!

  3. Marlynn Jayme Schotland January 23, 2017 at 3:18 pm #

    Love that you went! I had planned to go and was SO pumped up for it, but my grandmother passed away the week before and her memorial was up in Washington on Saturday. I was marching in spirit with you all! What a great moment in history.

    • beckydancer February 8, 2017 at 8:36 am #

      I’m so sorry for your loss, Marlynn. Thank you for being there in spirit for all women.

  4. GINGER SWANK January 26, 2017 at 7:07 am #

    I am proud of the young woman I know quite well. Rain and laughter flit across the same panes of life.

    • beckydancer February 8, 2017 at 8:37 am #

      This is true! You cannot splash in puddles without the rain! Thank you for reading my blog. I take inspiration from the strong, fierce woman that you are.

  5. beckydancer February 8, 2017 at 11:22 am #

    My father wrote me a comment in my email and expressed that he wouldn’t mind if I posted it. While I do not agree with it, I do believe in free speech, so I’ll leave it here:

    That’s what’s great about America. You can still protest, as long as you do it peacefully and legally. That right is guaranteed in the first amendment. I’m glad you took action on behalf of your beliefs.
    For myself, I am on the other side of the issue. I fully support President Trump and believe that his administration will be considered one of the top 10 ever.
    I do not share your political philosophy, your concerns that birthed the protest, the goals of the left. I once did, but I was “converted” to the right.
    By the way, do you know why what you were protesting? Can you name the issues, with verifying evidence? My experience with the left is that their idea of a protest is simply an occasion to blow off steam, have a great time together, and waving signs that may or may not have validity.
    In any case, fifty years ago I was among the protesters in Washington on several occasions, including the Martin Luther, Junior’s “Poor People’s Campaign” with Tent City at the Lincoln Memorial, and Vietnam war protests.
    I may prove to be wrong about the Trump administration–or you may be–but in this great country, exercising our rights to disagree shows patriotism and good citizenship.
    My hope is that we can get over our divisions and work to make America continually great.

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