In the wake of Donald Trump’s divisive electoral campaign, a dangerous rhetoric of fear and intolerance has left many people feeling afraid of what the future holds for them. Statements made by Trump have demonised and insulted women of all backgrounds and spread bigotry and intolerance, and people felt compelled to speak out against this growing climate of fear.
We know from our work on the ground building coalitions across borders that we are stronger when we come together. And if we don’t speak out against the hate and fear being stirred up, we condone and normalise it. So marching was a way of showing that we stand firm for women’s rights, for dignity and the inclusion of all people.
The first march was organised in Washington D.C. at a grassroots level back in November and solidarity marches sprang up here and around the world. Here in London I think charities came quite late to the party, and we were all caught a bit off guard by quite how massive it became. It was a genuine groundswell that came from people’s real need to come together and challenge the increasingly divisive, hateful rhetoric that emerged during the US election and the EU referendum campaign. It was a real gut response to that, with people coming together from all walks of life, full of hope and determination to fight for an alternative.
The march meant different things to different people, but the point of it for many people was a coming together to challenge that negativity and hopelessness that people are feeling and to show those in power that we reject a slide to far right politics. We marched to show that we’ve had enough and to come together with others who feel the same.
The pink ‘pussy’ hats came from a group of women in LA who wanted to show their defiance towards Trump and his comments about grabbing women by the genitals. It was symbolic of their feelings, and it seems to have spread like wildfire because there were loads of people wearing them here in London too. The hat is now on the cover of TIME magazine because it captured the idea of showing resistance in a creative way.
- The ‘Pussy Hat’ makes the cover of TIME Magazine.
There were lots of first timers who marched as well as old-timers. I saw a sign saying ‘It takes a lot to get me off the sofa’. There were so many people saying they don’t ordinarily do this kind of thing – as a professional campaigner that really struck me, that this was an authentic heartfelt march coming from a real, genuine energy. People marched because they wanted to be there. I spoke to someone there who was marching for the first time and he was totally energized and empowered by it. It made people feel hopeful.
All these people voicing their protest showed politicians that we’re not going to give them an easy ride and won’t let sexist, racist or xenophobic rhetoric go unchallenged. It’s showing them that there is resistance to increasingly sexist and anti-migrant, anti-refugee policies and to the rolling back of women’s rights and human rights generally around the world. And hopefully resistance from newly empowered people who wouldn’t consider themselves activists. The march was a key moment giving people the chance to feel hopeful rather than apathetic. Now we just have to work to make the most of this energy, maintain it and channel it into action. I liked what the organisers of the other big UK demo last weekend, Bridges Not Walls, said – what happens next is up to us.