Conversations With People at the Women's March on Washington, 2017

Conversations With People at the Women's March on Washington, 2017
Jessica Lehrman for the Village Voice

A day after Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, millions of people attended demonstrations in support of women's rights and civil rights across the world.

The Voice spoke to some of those people at the Women's March on Washington. The interviews have been edited and condensed.

(Left to right) Julie Stevens and Sylvia Stevens
(Left to right) Julie Stevens and Sylvia Stevens
Jessica Lehrman for the Village Voice

Julie Stevens and Sylvia Stevens

When did you get into town?

Sylvia: We’re part of a church group in Michigan — we left on Friday at nine at night, and got in today around seven, and we’ll leave today at five.

That sounds grueling.

Sylvia: The name for our bus was "Fast and Furious."

What made you want to make the trip?

Julie: We’re just very worried about the kind of language that [Trump’s] been using against marginalized groups, and that we are here, we are powerful and persistent, and we’re not gonna let him get away with it when he tries. We’ll be here to protest, to call our senators. Already back in Michigan, we have a big group of friends that we’ve shared all our different Congress members’ names and phone numbers with and how to contact them. I hope this serves as a cry of participation in our democracy, because 42 percent of the country didn’t vote, and that is horrifying. That means 42 percent don’t care.

Sylvia: I’m here not so much as a protest to Trump; he’s the elected president. That’s the way it is. What I am here for is to remind the executive and the legislative branch that women comprise more than 50 percent of the population of the country, and that our inalienable rights are being threatened. They are being violated.

What does it say that they have to be reminded of that fact?

Julie: It says that we have a person that was elected, who is used to making unilateral decisions and having his way, which isn’t how this government was set up by our forefathers. The governments, the people we elect, are temporary. But we, the people, persist.

Dionia Henderson

What worries you the most about President Trump?

I’m worried that he’s going to take away a lot of rights that affect me and my family and me and my culture. I am an African American, and I think he’s going to take away our rights. My father is a master sergeant in the military, and he’s going to take away a lot of veterans’ rights as well. I’m a twenty-year-old college student, and I feel like he doesn’t take into consideration how expensive college is. He’s going to try to make it so much harder for me to be a successful woman in this country.

Are you here to protest Trump specifically? There was some controversy about the organizers saying this march wasn’t explicitly anti-Trump.

To me, honestly, it doesn’t matter. I’m here to support black lives and women’s rights, LGBTQ, all of it. I believe that everyone deserves equal rights in this country and a fair opportunity to become successful, and the only people who become successful shouldn’t have to be rich.

There’s so many people here. Do you wonder why there wasn't this sort of enthusiasm on November 8?

Yeah, that’s how I was feeling earlier. But you see protests, and read in history books about Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King — you always say you want to do it, and you never get that opportunity or you never have the guts to actually do it. My college only asked for five dollars to come down here, and I thought this is my opportunity, I’m coming, and I’m making some bomb posters and I’m going to protest.

I see little children here, I see the hope in their eyes, and I’m so excited for their generation to come up and be as positive and as good at making a community as our generation is. I saw a little girl with a frame around her face — like a presidential portrait. She wants to be president someday, and that gives me inspiration.

(Left to right) Jackson Holt, Matthew Holt, Breanna Holt, Stephanie Holt
(Left to right) Jackson Holt, Matthew Holt, Breanna Holt, Stephanie Holt
Jessica Lehrman for the Village Voice

Matthew Holt, Breanna Holt, Stephanie Holt, and Jackson Holt

When did you decide to come up for the march?

Matthew: Originally we booked our hotel rooms thinking Hillary was going to win. There’s no way in hell that Trump is gonna win. But when we found out about the march we thought, you know what, we’re gonna keep our hotel room and come up for a few days, see the sights, and take part in history here.

Were you around yesterday for the inauguration?

Matthew: We went to Mount Vernon, and we got out of town. There were a lot of people who were marching at Mount Vernon. Every person we saw there was coming to the march.

I just can’t look at Trump, and look at my daughter, and think anything he is saying or doing is right. Would I leave my daughter in a room with Trump? Absolutely not. There’s no way. He’s a misogynistic jackass. I have a three-year-old son. I can’t look at my son’s face and say I didn’t do something to show him that there’s a better way to live, that Trump is not the role model I want for him. I want a man or woman in the White House that can actually be a role model.

In Georgia, my wife and I are little specks of blue in a sea of red.

Stephanie: It’s more separated by race. There’s a lot of pressure, if you’re white, to be Republican and stay with that clique. And it drives the politics in small towns. There’s an article the New York Times wrote in the 1980s about how life is there, post-segregation. Not much has changed since that 1980s article. This election has made me stop being silent as a white person. Instead of listening to all the jokes and things that people say — "this is a black thing," this or that — I now want to speak up and say, "I don’t feel the same way."

In that sense, and in the sense that so many people are here today, this election was a good thing.

Stephanie: And it feels like we’re not so isolated. In the deep South you feel so isolated. The different groups that formed this past year finally connected us with people outside, so we didn’t feel like we were the only people who thought this way.

Matthew: It also gave voice to a lot of people who were scared of being in the deep South.

Stephanie: Yes.

Matthew: I’ve seen a lot of women in the Pantsuit Nation groups come out and say that they are staunch Democrats, but their husbands are bullheaded Republicans, and they can’t speak out publicly, but now they have a forum to do so, and that’s empowering.

(Left to right) Youssra Kamel and Mona Abdala
(Left to right) Youssra Kamel and Mona Abdala
Jessica Lehrman for the Village Voice

Youssra Kamel, Mona Abdala

Why is it important for you to be here today?

Youssra: We’re both educators, and my religion tells me that I have to stand up for anything I see that’s not right, that God looks at our hearts, God does not look at our skin color, he does not look at our gender. It’s about our piety and who we are as a human being. So the whole idea of putting people down to make yourself better than others? It’s just not acceptable. That’s why we’re here today. Also, we are women, and he said a lot of insulting things about women.

Mona: He didn’t really leave anyone that he didn’t insult. I’m just worried about continued hate crimes and attacks on minorities. It’s really concerning. But this is a show of unity, and if we just continue this — the good thing about what Trump did was he really unified us.

Are you married? Are your husbands here?

Youssra: Yeah, they’re not here. They’re with the kids.

Mona: They’re babysitting today. [Laughs]

Driely Vieira
Driely Vieira
Jessica Lehrman for the Village Voice

Driely Vieira

A part of the stoplight started to bend while you were up there. Were you concerned at all that you were going to fall?

Oh, no, I shoot the protests in New York all the time. I climb anything I can because I’m short.

Was this one of the taller things you’ve climbed?

No, no, I was able to climb pretty high on the last protest I did at Standing Rock. I was there shooting for W [Magazine] and I was able to climb some other crazy shit that they had there. I tend to climb everything.

When I’m covering stuff like this, people always ask me if I’m going as a protester or as a journalist or —

For me, it’s both. I’m from Brazil, my green card expires in two months, and I was recently arrested in New York so I probably won’t be able to renew it, so I figure I might as well just go for it. I asked GQ to assign me, so they did it, and that’s it.

So you can wear both hats.

Pretty much. I’m ready to break some shit.

(Left to right) Howard Miller, Devin Miller, and Korrine Palmer
(Left to right) Howard Miller, Devin Miller, and Korrine Palmer
Jessica Lehrman for the Village Voice

Korrine Palmer, Devin Miller, Howard Miller

You’re the second family I have met from Michigan today.

Howard: I love seeing all the people here. It’s well worth the drive from Michigan. Traveling here, the service plaza in Pennsylvania off the turnpike was amazing. Everyone there was going to this. The energy was incredible. It wasn’t vicious, nobody was causing any harm, and they wanted to be heard.

Why did you come?

Devin: Because I feel like everyone should be treated equally.

Korrine: Perfect. We’re also worried about public schooling, for him. Women’s rights, obviously.

Howard: Insurance — Medicare, Social Security.

Do you feel more hopeful now than you did before?

Howard: Hope is —

Korrine: All around us.


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