On the way to Saturday’s march, as we struggled to stay upright on the packed BART train, a stranger wrapped me in her arms. “This is how we’re going to get through the next four years,” she said. “With our arms around each other.”
We fought back with humor, even silliness, at the march. With signs: “Fump truck!” and, “There will be hell toupee.” And, of course, with masses of pink knit “pussy caps,” worn by women and men alike.
People innovated with the hats. A Berkeley barber used clippings from her salon to create a line of caps with tufted ears. One man turned his sideways, so that it looked vaguely military.
Being playful is the opposite of being oppressed. It’s an expression of liberation, a license to think for yourself. It shows that, even in the face of this dire election result, we remain irrepressible.
The sun also came out to bless us with a bit of dry weather during our march. (Although, in reality, it was more of a shamble.) The plan was to take BART to the Lake Merritt station, meet at Madison Park, and then march to Oakland City Hall for the rally. We would parade up Oak Street, along Lake Merritt, turn up Grand Avenue, and then march back down Broadway to end at 14th Street.
But … the BART system couldn’t handle our numbers. Trains were long in coming, and so full when they arrived that some people couldn’t get on board. Our train was so overloaded that we exited at 12th Street. We assumed we could walk to Madison Park, and then take the parade route. Instead, we joined a dense, barely moving mass. Together, we oozed through downtown to Frank Ogawa Plaza.
The experience reminded me of eight years ago, when we took our kids to Washington, D.C., for Obama’s first inauguration. The cold was shocking. The temperature was in the teens, and it never warmed up. Women wore full-length fur coats, something we Californians had never seen before. Street vendors sold hand warmers to put inside your gloves, and we stocked up on them.
Even in that bitter cold, the crowds overwhelmed the city. The Mall was so full that many people who had tickets ended up being shunted onto side streets and never made it.
We squeezed in behind the Washington Monument, a mile away from the stage, watched the proceedings on the closest Jumbotron, and counted ourselves lucky.
Saturday’s Women’s March had a similar feel. The crowds overwhelmed the planners. BART seemed to break down under the load. We overflowed the plaza in front of city hall, and the PA system was unequal to its task. We never heard the speeches.
But it felt like a new beginning.