Hi – I’ve asked my dear friend Kelly Crunkleton to share her experience from the Women’s March in DC with us…
Hi! I’m Kelly. When Valerie first asked me to write this blog, I was nervous. I am not a “writer”. I am not an activist. And then it occurred to me… I am just like most folks. I work, I pay my taxes, I try to be a good person. This blog post is my opinion and my experience on what turned out to be one of the biggest protests in America’s history.
I was raised a “Republican”. I joke and say that I became a “Democrat” when I grew up, about 10 years ago. I am 52 yrs old now. Point being that I am very familiar with “both sides”. However, this experience and my reason for marching do not revolve around partisan politics. It felt much bigger to me. I felt compelled to travel to Washington D.C. and march for human decency. It wasn’t a fun trip. It wasn’t a sight-seeing trip. It was my duty as an America citizen. I didn’t just march for women. I marched for our county. I marched for humanity and for our rights. Here’s my experience.
Departure: My flight departed at 6:15 AM. I think many people (including me) were still half asleep upon entering the plane. Then, a woman stood up in the font of the plane, camera phone in hand, and said, “Baltimore, Flight 112, All women marchers say hello” as she started walking down the aisle, camera pointed forward. It became obvious – as women were waving and clapping – that this plane was full of women who felt the same way I did….who got up in the early morning hours to catch this flight and to march. I later saw that very clip on several national news sites.
Arrival: I was nervous arriving in Baltimore. I didn’t know what to expect. From the Airport, I took a bus ride to the train station and then a train ride to DC and I was there. I arrived about 11 AM on Friday. I was fortunate enough to stay in an apartment right in the heart of DC. Friday, my hosts and I walked all over the city. I saw small groups of protesters. I was surprised that there were very few Trump supporters. The streets were relatively quiet especially for a weekend night. I saw the street vendors peddling their anti-Clinton/ pro-Trump wares. I did not attend the inauguration that day. I heard the cannons booming in the distance signifying that Trump had been sworn into office. That evening, I noticed that the stands to hold the people watching the parade immediately after the inauguration, were only about 30% full. The streets were quiet. It felt a bit eerie to see so few people out on such a big day.
The Night Before: It became dark. As we were meandering around and chatting, we found ourselves on a corner and all of a sudden, police were lining up in riot gear with big, clear shields. I thought it was strange and wondered if we had stumbled into the middle of something. I looked into their faces. They were so young and they looked nervous. I noticed a small fire burning in the middle of the street. It looked like a couple of road-side paper stands had been piled together and set ablaze. The police started throwing smoke bombs (not tear gas) at the small groups of protesters who were standing around. I knew the gas was not tear gas as people stood in it as they went off. It startled people and they scurried out of the way. I thought it interesting that the only people left in the street were the news reporters filming close up shots of the little fire and of the police. I stood around the corner from where this was happening and would peek to see what was going on. I thought to myself, it seemed like overkill by the police and that they must have had a bigger reason for acting the way they did. Perhaps they were clearing the street for the parade? I don’t know if it was even a parade route.
We decided to move on. We ducked into a restaurant and had some dinner before walking back to the apartment. Once back in the apartment, we turned on the news. To our dismay, there were reports of rioting in the streets by protestors. I was struck because, this was local news and we were standing at that very site. It was so obviously blown out of proportion and sensationalized. I couldn’t believe it. I posted on my Facebook page about what I saw. Interestingly, people were actually arguing with me saying that I “needed to turn on the TV” because they saw the clips “with their own eyes”. I tried to explain that what they saw was distorted. I explained that I was physically right where much of the “rioting” happened. I was shocked that people kept arguing with me. I was shocked that the media had done this. It was an eye opener for me. I realized that had I been watching my news station from home, I probably would have thought the same thing.
Rise & Shine: The next morning I arose and looked out the front window about 7 AM. Because the apartment was on the third floor, I could see up and down the streets. I was struck by the amount of people already heading to the march. They looked like ants streaming down both sides of the street. The actual march didn’t start until 1 PM. There were speakers and musicians, etc. starting at 10 AM. We thought if we left the apartment by 8 AM, we would have plenty of time to reach the march starting point by 9AM to secure a good spot. We fell in line with the ants and headed toward the main stage. We walked and walked and all of a sudden we stopped.
There were so many people that that we were not able to continue forward. We backed up and tried to go around and come at it from another side. We encountered the same situation in every direction we went. So, we stopped and stayed. The interesting thing is that it was so crowded that I couldn’t even raise my arms. We were still four blocks from the stage! There were people as far as the eye could see in every direction and we weren’t even close to enough to see the stage or hear anything. I felt a bit anxious as I realized how tightly we were all packed together. I thought if something were to happen I could be trampled. I chatted with people right next to me. I took pictures of signs. I realized that my fear was from the sheer number of people, not from the people themselves. The atmosphere was surprisingly friendly and calm. I expected there to be an anger in the air and there wasn’t. It felt more like hope.
Forward March: Finally, word came through the crowd. There were so many people that there was not a beginning point of the March route. It was impossible to march like it was originally planned. We were instructed to just turn around and start marching outward. I was grateful to finally be able to move. I was also grateful to be with people who lived in D.C. and knew the streets and where we could turn, etc. Imagine being downtown in a metropolitan city, standing in the middle of the street and seeing nothing but thousands and thousands of people in every direction. Many times, I could not even tell I was in the middle of the street until I looked up and saw I was under the traffic lights. The big city buses were pulled to the side of the street and their engines were off.
From the Inside: I watched and I listened to everything around me. There were many different types of people marching. Every section of society you can think of: women, men, families, special interest groups, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans. It was a true slice of America. Notably absent were the hate groups. I had an eye out for KKK or Pro-life, etc. and I never saw any of them. I never saw and encounter between a protester and an anti-protestor. I did notice the same people that were peddling the anti-Clinton, pro-Trump wares were now peddling anti-Trump, pro-Clinton wares. I smiled and thought, “That’s America”. Every now and then, there would be an ambulance or a police car or a big, black shiny Cadillac SUV that needed to get down the street. I was amazed at how the crowd would sway to one side allowing the vehicle to pass and then sway back again behind it. I also noticed the police and the National Guard, etc. and their demeanor as I marched past them. They were friendly. Many were leaning against their cars, chatting with each other. I saw tears in the eyes of several different women who were dressed in uniform. One marcher placed her pink hat on the head of a woman who was in full uniform. The marcher thanked the other woman for her service and for keeping us all safe during the march. It was very touching. Another thing I noticed is that the same stands that were used for the inauguration parade the day before were now packed with people. I mean PACKED. I later read that there was not one, single arrest during the entire march. Not one.
Just Like Me: I walked, I chanted, I laughed and I cried a few times as I was swept up by the magnitude of what was taking place. I marched for hours and hours. I marched all the way up until I went inside Union Station to catch my train to catch my fight from Baltimore back to Houston, TX. The march gave me hope. I felt proud to be an American. I felt hopeful that I was not alone. The streets were filled with people just like me.
At any given moment a marcher would call out, “Show me what Democracy looks like” and everyone would respond by chanting, “This is what Democracy looks like”. Indeed.