Among the estimated 500,000 who marched and held signs Saturday in Washington, D.C., were more than 100 from Oberlin.
They took part in what is believed to be the largest single day of protest in American history as some 2.9 million people took to the streets in cities nationwide the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
The Oberlin trip included 53 who traveled by bus and another 50 who joined the caravan. It was organized by Janet Garrett, two-time Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives and Liz Burgess, chair of the Kendal at Oberlin board of directors.
The group’s bus broke down around 3 a.m. Saturday before arriving in Washington but most passengers were able to hop on with passing groups before repairs were made to get the vehicle running.
“It was wonderful,” said Burgess. “We all were a bit worried after the engine trouble but we still got there on time for the rally and the march. I found it uplifting and energizing. It took a few hours to fix the bus. There were just a few of us left with the original bus waiting but it all worked out. In the spirit of the march the buses helped us in picking up as many passengers as they could.”
Joining them in spirit were about 300,000 protesters in New York City, another 250,000 each in Boston and Chicago, as many as 750,000 in Los Angeles. In Cleveland, about 15,000 joined the march, according to police.
Events were also held in Europe, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and even Antarctica.
“We didn’t run into much opposition,” said Burgess. “It was all very positive and very supportive. There were children, men, teenagers, college students, and grandmothers. It was quite a diverse group. I hope this has created a network for another event in the future and let people know they’re not alone.”
Garrett said she struggled with the decision to catch a ride with another bus after the Oberlin vehicle broke down.
“I thought I should stay with the original bus but when they called and said only six seats were left I said, ‘Let’s go.’ When we got to D.C., the way we were supposed to go was blocked, so the driver started dropping people off on street corners,” she said.
The group had to walk about six blocks to reach the main area of the rally.
“We came to the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool at the far end of the Washington Monument,” said Garrett. “We couldn’t get close enough to the stage to hear any of the speeches or music because of the crowd. I attended a couple of big anti-war protests at the end of the Vietnam era but never saw anything like this. There were throngs of people everywhere, most with signs, often chanting, and always friendly and kind.”
Signs spotted by Garrett and Burgess included “Dump Trump” and “Respect my existence or expect my resistance” as well as “Hands off my body” and “Democracy for sale.”
“There’s so many groups who feel vulnerable since the election,” Burgess said. “This brought those groups together. Individually we may feel vulnerable but together we’re strong.”
Garrett told members of the group to think of the march as only the beginning of what needs to be done.
“If you think this is the end of it you don’t know how this works,” she said. “People come together, find kindred spirits, and energize each other. Then they spark more people when they go home and it snowballs. This is not an end but the beginning of a movement.”
When her daughters began to feel fear and anxiety, Garrett cited a passage from “The Lord of the Rings” to calm them. The book was written by J.R.R. Tolkien for his son, who fought against the Nazis in World War II.
“Frodo told Gandalf he wished the ring didn’t come to him and that he didn’t live in such times,” Garrett said. “Gandalf replied that people don’t get to choose the times in which they live. They only get to choose what they will do with the time they are given.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Courtesy photos An estimated 2.9 million people nationwide participated in the Women’s March on Washington protest.