Ann Arbor was still dark at 7:45 a.m. as staff shielded by umbrellas from the rain filed into the LSA Building. Outside, a group of 50 women and four men in damp coats and signs shielded in plastic bags, some seeking refuge under the angles of the Cube, waited for their bus to Washington D.C. to arrive.
In about four hours, Donald Trump would be sworn in as 45th president of the United States and the 44th president, Barack Obama, would board a helicopter and fly out of the capital he had called home for eight years.
The bus would never make it to D.C. by then, but it never intended to. The women weren’t interested celebrating the inauguration, rather, they wanted to be there for the aftermath. On Friday, Trump was inaugurated, and on Saturday, women from all over the country would gather for the Women’s March on Washington.
A week before the inauguration, The Washington Post reported that city officials had received 200 permit requests for bus parking for the inauguration itself, and 1,200 for the Women’s March. Going into Jan. 20, the president-elect had a 37-percent approval rating.
Trump’s election was met with mixed emotions across the country — the president lost the popular vote but won on the electoral. Many women were saddened by the loss of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and even more so the loss of the prospect of the first female president. Regardless of political party, though, women were weary of the incoming president — for his policies threatening issues like reproductive health, and for his rhetoric against women (see: the infamous “grab her by the pussy” hot mike video).
It was these concerns which prompted the surge of Facebook events for women organizing and demonstrating in response. The movement eventually consolidated under the Women’s March on Washington — though, there were also smaller marches across the country — including one in Ann Arbor.
LSA senior Florence Rivkin, donning a pink “WOMEN’S HEALTH MATTERS” shirt, stood at the front of the bus and explained why she would march.
“I think it’s going to be a really lovely message to show thousands and thousands of people, women, men, every identity, coming together and showing everyone that we actually love each other and the U.S. doesn’t have to be a hateful place,” Rivkin said. “I want the Trump administration to know I am going to be fighting for my rights and I am going to be fighting for everybody else’s rights … this is the beginning of a movement, not the end.”
Rivkin organized the event with high-school-friend-turned-college-roommate LSA senior Lalitha Ramaswamy. Rivkin was upset following the election and a family friend suggested she do something about it and go to the march.
“I came home and Lalitha was sitting in our room and I was like, should we do this?” Rivkin said. “And she was like, yeah. And she made the Facebook event and we ordered the bus the next day.”
The pair originally had enough students signed up to take two buses, though not enough paid in time to book the second — “and we can’t front $5,000,” Rivkin said. Many on the bus knew Rivkin or Ramaswamy, but others came after catching wind of the Facebook event or through friends. Some, like LSA sophomore Renae Lyons, even came on their own.
“I signed up for this by myself; I just heard that the bus was going and I felt really compelled to go,” Lyons, who was upset with Trump’s election, said. “I have the privilege to go and I felt like it would be a total waste if I didn’t take advantage of that.”
Now, riding down State Street in Ann Arbor on the single bus, the women asked the riders to say their reasons for marching, along with the answer to one of three questions: Who would you want to perform at your inauguration? What is your favorite Barack Obama moment? Or: If you could have anyone, from history or present, march alongside you, who would it be?
The passengers gave reasons ranging from health care and misogynistic rhetoric to climate change and immigration for attending. Laura Vicinanza, an LSA junior who enjoys Obama and Biden memes, marched for everyone whose rights could be under attack under the new administration.
“I was really devastated with the election results — it’s been a lot; it’s taken me so long to process — but I really want to go out and march and stand up for women’s rights and all of these other marginalized groups that the Trump administration had not really addressed,” Vicinanza said to the bus.
Many women, like LSA sophomore Megan Burns, cited privilege as a reason for attending — believing if they can go, they should, to march for both themselves and others who may not be able to.
“I am here to march because I believe it’s our job to speak up for all of the people who don’t have a voice,” Burns told the bus.
Burns, who is an Opinion writer the Daily, said were she to be elected president, she would like Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden to do a “sister act” on stage.
LSA sophomore Tansy Massey-Green was inspired by her mom to attend the march and saw it as a critical first step following the election.
“I march today because I remember how devastated I was after the election — my first election — how badly it went,” Massey-Green said. “Lots of tears were shed and I called my mom and talked to her so long — she was very politically active when she was here at U of M — she told me to get out there and do whatever I can, and I thought this was the first thing I could have done. I’m here marching for the people who are going to get her the hardest by the incoming administration.”
At its core, many came to the march in opposition to Trump’s policies, though Ramaswamy emphasized that the march was not anti-Trump.
“I think so many of the ones after the election were about getting rid of him and hating him,” Ramaswamy said. “The fact that this is more for unifying and including everybody and fighting for people’s rights, rather than trying to kick out the administration it’s trying to make them listen so I think that distinction is really important about this march.”
Additionally important to the organizers was emphasizing peace going into the protest. Entering D.C., Ramaswamy warned riders there were rumors of people attending the rally to purposely ignite others.
“They are not part of the official march, they are purely there to riot and to cause something not peaceful to happen,” Ramaswamy said. “Don’t be dissuaded by that, but please be careful.”
A woman on the bus expressed concerns with tear-gas after the D.C. police tear-gassed inauguration protesters.
The organizers explained what to do in the event and urged marchers to look over the safety guide that they had emailed out, as well as remember to remain peaceful and remember why they had come.
Ramaswamy and Rivkin left housing up to the marchers, so after nearly nine hours on the blue charter bus with the pink Planned Parenthood sign in the windshield, marchers dispersed from the bus at the Stadium-Armory metro stop outside of D.C. with the promise of meeting at Hancock Park with the rest of the Michigan marchers the following morning.
When their ride fell through at the last minute, LSA sophomore Dana Nathanson and LSA senior Natalie Burr borrowed a car the Friday before the rally from a housemate of their co-op and drove it down. Then their housing fell through after George Washington University, a college in D.C.’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood, barred visitors for the weekend because of the festivities. Still, they were determined to march and parked their car in an RV camp in Maryland where they slept for one night.
“I’m marching for human rights,” Nathanson said. “I like that the march is after the Trump inauguration because I feel like we’re getting the last word. I’m marching for not giving up and for being resilient in the next four years; for not forgetting how this happened.”
Lacing her hiking boots before heading out to meet with the other Michiganders, Nathanson fell back on the couch.
“So who’s excited for this post-march nap?”
The post-march nap was, in fact, great. And for the most part, the march lived up to people’s expectations. Both of Michigan’s U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D) and Gary Peters (D) along with U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D–Mich.) spoke with about 200 marchers gathered at the Michigan meeting point before the rally, though staying together for the actual rally and march became impossible and most broke off into smaller groups. Though, not before the University of Michigan crew sang “Hail to the Victors.”
The march is being called the largest in human history with rallies being held on all seven continents and an estimated 3 million participants. Despite the large crowds — in D.C. there being more than 600,000 marchers there were no instances of violence; something LSA senior Harry Freedman said he was thankful for afterward.
“My favorite part about the march was actually that no one was arrested,” Freedman said. “Of all of D.C. of all of the nearly 1 million people that were there, not a single person turned to violence enough to be arrested. No one protested in an unpatriotic, uncharacteristic manner that demeaned the march itself.”
Yet, issues still remained.
It was scheduled to start at 1:15 p.m. following a rally with a barrage of speakers and performers beginning at 10 a.m., but 1:15 p.m. rolled by, the speakers continued and ralliers became antsy. By 2:40 p.m., many began to march despite speakers such as Madonna and Amy Schumer still in queue. LSA junior Shanthi Veeramachaneni came to the march to show solidarity with others who do not support the president. While she said she enjoyed the march and left it feeling empowered, things like the logistics bothered her.
“There were some things that I liked about it and there were some things that I didn’t like about it,” Veeramachaneni said. “I think that there was a lot of energy and a lot of passion coming from all of the marchers — and there were a lot of speakers that I really liked — but I felt like the event was a little disorganized.”
Additionally, Veeramachaneni said she wished some of the speakers had focused more on inclusivity in their rhetoric.
“I also felt like some of the speakers were also to a degree polarizing with their language,” Veeramachaneni said. “I was really hoping for speakers to be passionate but to also have a message that was unifying and I think that a few of the speakers just came off as very, very angry and vigilant.”
Others, like Ann Arbor resident Julia Coron, felt similarly. Women’s rights, Coron said, have been important to her ever since she began to realize growing up the way her gender affected her. The election of Trump, and his rhetoric towards women, doesn’t vibe with her.
“It was nothing that he needed to say, but just knowing who he was,” Coron said. “He’s not a good dude. I understand as a person he is — I feel bad for him because I know that he must be so wrought inside with shit — I feel for him in that way, but that doesn’t mean that he needs to have power and he shouldn’t have power.”
She traveled with her mother, Karen, also an Ann Arbor resident, and said she expected the march as a whole, speakers included, to be more diverse. Diversity had been an issue from the planning stages of the march with many women calling for an increase in inclusivity. Moving forward, this is what Coron plans on focusing her feminist efforts toward.
“I would like to really start researching more on the local level of communities and community centers that I can maybe volunteer and do something for,” Coron said. “The one thing that I noticed was that the march wasn’t as diverse as I pictured it. On the large scale we were doing something, but coming back down in the more localized area to really make changes. I know that I would like to do that in Ann Arbor.”
Fog had still settled on D.C. when the worn Michigan marchers arrived at the Stadium-Armory metro stop to board the bus back to the University. After two days of travel and commotion, marchers were tired — and not looking forward to reboarding — but were still energized after the previous day’s events.
Driving through Pennsylvania on the journey back, Rivkin asked the bus to reflect on their time at the march and share their highlights — whether it be a moment or a funny sign — with the rest.
Harriet Rivkin, sister to Florence, who teaches in Detroit, said Sophie Cruz, the six-year-old activist who gave a speech beside her family to the crowd in both English and Spanish, made her march.
“My favorite speaker was Sophie Cruz — the little girl — she made me weep,” she said. “Mostly because she reminded me of my students in Detroit who are scared. The fact that she was saying to the kids out there ‘don’t be scared, look at all of these people who are here to love and support you,’ that was my favorite part.”
The question left to the marchers now that the rally is over remains: What’s next?
Veeramachaneni said she isn’t sure what her next step is, but knows there will be one. Staying informed, especially after the false or, rather, “alternative truth” claims made by the Trump administration in its first press conference, is critical for her.
“I don’t have any immediate plan as to what I can do to continue to show my support for the things I believe in, but I feel like I just have to take it day by day,” Veeramachaneni said. “We have to see what Donald Trump is doing and we need to hold him accountable for it. We can’t slip and just start to show apathy for what he’s doing.”
Organizers Ramaswamy and Rivkin plan on keeping the email list used to plan the trip active after the march — first sending an email to share photos of it, and then to create a collective document of causes and ways to contribute to them.
LSA senior Lauren Gallagher, who was the president of Students for Hillary during the campaign season, has experience in activism. Clinton’s loss was disheartening for her but she said she felt reinvigorated by the march and is ready to begin again.
“I think a really important thing is giving people the opportunity to take action instead of just the Facebook activism that millennials are so used to,” Gallagher said. “Yes, it’s important to share articles and talk about your opinions, but it’s really important to get out there and actually do things. It was really exciting to see so many people come out on the bus all the way to D.C., but then everyone who was still in Ann Arbor who didn’t have the opportunity to come out to D.C., they still went out and marched, and that’s the kind of activism we need. Moving forward I think that it’s going to be really important that people are calling their senators, sending letters, donating to campaigns.”