Women’s March attendees rest, reflect — and plan
It was exhilarating, cathartic, history in the making, said Bay Staters who participated in women’s marches in Boston, Washington, D.C., and New York City.
But it was just Day One, they warned, and the fight will not stop.
“The goal is to create a new political movement,” said Kim Whittaker, project manager of the Boston Women’s March for America.
The post-march agenda starts with a call for 10 actions over 100 days, the first of which is writing postcards to senators. A conference call will be held among organizers later this week to discuss how to create an infrastructure for grass-roots activism, Whittaker said.
Whittaker said she slept in Sunday, then spent the day looking at news and social media coverage of the “proudest moment of her professional life.”
The Boston Common event was one of more than 600 marches held around the world the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Attendance in Boston was estimated at more than 175,000; at the main march held in D.C., at half a million.
Whittaker predicts the participants aren’t done.
“I’m not going to put my rally gear away,” said Lea Hench. She and her husband, John, have started contributing to organizations that they believe can help check Trump’s policies, and will continue to contact politicians.
More than a year ago, the couple protested at a campaign rally for a businessman-turned-aspiring-president who they never thought would reach the nation’s highest office.
Protesters were few and far between then — a far cry from the huge crowds Saturday that packed Boston Common, where the couple stood listening to speeches with their daughter and 12-year-old granddaughter.
“It was like passing the baton to the next generation,” said Hench.
Michael Petty, 53, said he is passionate about the values of the Women’s March — he wore a Wonder Woman costume to the Boston rally — but said it’s critical to continue engaging with Trump voters, many of whom are friends.
Petty, a friend of the Henches’, said he was an evangelical fundamentalist, a “huge radical conservative,” when he was in his 20s.
“Then I started waking up in graduate school and surrounding myself with people who didn’t think like I did,” he said. “One thing led to another, and [now] I’m a gay activist.”
Petty and his husband split their time between Jamaica Plain — a “liberal wonderland” — and Tampa, where his conservative neighbors celebrated Trump’s victory.
“It was like being in a completely different America,” he said.
Going forward, Petty said, “I don’t want to shut my ears to the hardships and the pains of people who think differently from me.”
Ceil Reece and her longtime friend Eileen Meade St. Onge, both 69 and from Hanover, were involved in activism when they were much younger and said they were politically reignited by marching in New York City.
“We don’t want the story to die after today or be overwhelmed by the president’s tweets,” said St. Onge. She and Reece have been researching how to best influence politicians and plan to stay in touch with the Women’s March network.
Charlie Baker, 15, of Swampscott, who is black, said she attended the Boston Women’s March because she felt a duty to support other women of color.
“It made me reach out to some people who I previously wasn’t really friends with, and we bonded over caring so much about women’s rights,” she said.
Baker, who was already involved with causes including Black Lives Matter and standing up against Islamophobia, spent Sunday afternoon mixing an album for her band “Mystery Basement” with songs about the conflict in Syria.
Baker said that after hard-won progress for civil rights by her grandparents’ generation, Trump’s presidency was a step back — but then, the Saturday marches were a step forward, reminiscent of their fight.
At the rally in Washington, D.C., an 89-year-old man from Lexington, Mass., said Trump’s rhetoric harkened back to a darker time: the 1930s, when he and his Jewish family escaped the Nazis in Austria.
“[Trump] is going to do what he wants, and he’ll change the laws to conform,” said Stephen Tauber, who left Vienna in 1938, arriving in the United States at age 9.
“As a resident of Massachusetts, I don’t have to jab my congressman or senators to do the right thing with regards to the new administration,” he said. “But there are any number of organizations that need financial support,” said Tauber, who plans to continue his support of the ACLU.
Tauber’s son, Andrew, an attorney in Washington, D.C., who accompanied his father, said he plans to do pro bono work “to resist any unlawful and undemocratic actions by the new administration.”
Other attendees also said that they plan to contact politicians at federal and local levels, donate to political groups, and look for the next protest.
Monte Snellenberger, 43, of Lynn, who marched in Washington with her 9-year-old daughter, said her immediate plan is to make phone calls to politicians, as suggested by organizers — a minimum of two a week — and to shift her donating habits to be more politically oriented, with a greater focus on Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. She thinks they’re going to need it.
“We don’t have to sit in depression on our couches in fear of what’s coming,” said Snellenberger. “There are other people who will link arms with me, and we will walk into the street and shut it down.”
While some are going to call the politicians, others might become the politicians.
‘There was a conversation on the bus — ‘Who is going to run?’ and ‘Who is going to support them running?’ ” said Tami Gouveia, 42, of Acton, a lead organizer for Massachusetts attendees of the D.C. march, who brought along her 12- and 15-year-old sons.
“I think this is taking off in a way we’ve never seen before,” she said.