About 4,000 Mainers, including those shown above, marched with an estimated 500,000 protesters in Washington, D.C., last Saturday. (Photos by Christine Parrish)
About 4,000 Mainers, including those shown above, marched with an estimated 500,000 protesters in Washington, D.C., last Saturday. (Photos by Christine Parrish)
The rally was longer and the crowds in Washington, D.C., far bigger than anticipated, making the permit for the Women’s March on Washington invalid. While organizers scrambled to find a way to proceed, protesters mashed together in massive crowds started chanting march, march, march, march, march so loudly they silenced the speakers from the stage. As the rally broke up, an estimated half a million people, many of them wearing pink hats with ears, streamed down the National Mall, Independence, Constitution, and Pennsylvania avenues, filling downtown Washington as they aimed towards the White House to register their dislike for the new president and his policies just one day after Trump took office.

 Law enforcement was light on the ground and there weren’t enough Port-a-potties, but the crowd of mostly women, ranging in age from over 90 to a few months in age, remained determined, united and polite. 

“I never felt unsafe or concerned that those around me might turn angry, even though that is so common in these situations,” said Cindy Talbot, the owner of an environmental consulting firm in Cape Elizabeth. 

Talbot, 60, is an independent voter who has voted for both Republicans and Democrats. She had never participated in a protest march in her life until last Saturday. 

At the Women’s March in Washington, she heard the rallying cry of the sister marches around the world in her heart.

On the streets of the nation’s capital, in bookstores and coffee shops, at kitchen counters, and waiting for a delayed flight at Reagan National Airport, the women I spoke with who came to Washington with overlapping concerns about the Trump administration left the city unified about what comes next: Action.

“I am inspired to ... (reach) out to organizations in Portland that assist immigrants with settling into our culture and doing whatever volunteer work I can,” said Talbot, after the march. 

That, and calling her elected officials frequently.

Sharon Akkoul of Syracuse, New York, found a sign at the march that captured her concerns. It read: “I march for: quality education, the environment, universal health care, reproductive rights, women’s equality.”

“Like many, I was disappointed in the 2016 election,” said Akkoul. “When the results came in I was stunned, but deep in my heart I thought, “Maybe now we will pay attention; maybe now people will take action.”

Akkoul joined a group of women from Syracuse, including her stepdaughter who works to end domestic violence, for the seven-hour bus ride to Washington. 

“The first time I marched in Washington was in 1989 in a march organized in support of women’s reproductive rights,” said Akkoul.

She has been a feminist for as long as she can remember.

“I remember as a small child in the late 1960s going to a local department store with my mother,” said Akkoul.  The sales clerk handed her mother a credit application and told her to get her husband to sign it.

“My mom explained she was a widow, and the clerk politely took the application back.” Akkoul said her mom left ashamed for asking for credit. “Even as a small child I knew the way she was treated was wrong.”

Akkoul later sent an email from Syracuse that her first step towards action was calling her New York State senators. “As leading Democratic voices, I am pretty sure I know where they stand on the issues, but I am taking nothing for granted.”