“I woke up this morning feeling truly human for the first time since waking up in a daze of horror on November 9,” said Jessica Weigarten after attending the Women’s March in Philadelphia. Weingarten is a Philadelphia Jewish Voice contributor and a Democratic Convention Watch blogger.
She was joined in Philadelphia on January 21 by thousands of women, children and men who took to the streets, walking shoulder to shoulder, with the crowd stretching for a solid mile along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The number of marchers on the Parkway was estimated at 50,000, more than double the predicted total.
The march in Philadelphia was part of a national and international movement that included demonstrations across the country and around the world. With 3.2 million participants — a number erring on the low side — in hundreds of cities nationwide, the Women’s March may have constituted the largest single protest in the history of American democracy. In addition, it is estimated that over 260,000 people marched outside the United States in communities around the world — even in Antarctica.
The marches gave voice to communities who felt targeted by Donald Trump’s rhetoric during the presidential campaign, including women and racial and religious minorities. It was an opportunity to stand united and express concerns about President Trump’s agenda. As Lu-Ann Hall, a recently retired elementary school teacher from Maryland who was participating in the Philadelphia march, explained, “I am committed to the cause of social justice, and this march is the beginning of making sure that the causes for social justice are known.”
The demonstrators were not short on creativity, as evidenced by the signs that many of them carried — some political, some philosophical and some downright funny. Tony Ventresca, from Niagara Falls, who remembered protesting the Vietnam War when he was in college, carried a sign at the Philly march that read “Proud Father of a Nasty Woman.” That woman happened to be his daughter, Shana Ventresca, a social worker and student at the University of Pennsylvania. A sampling of some of the signs that peppered the Philly march appears below. After the march, a number of signs were left to form memorial walls on several of the bridges spanning the Vine Street Expressway.
Another iconic image from Women’s Marches were the knitted, pink “pussyhats,” sported by men, women and children. The Pussyhat Project was the brainchild of Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman, knitters at The Little Knittery in Los Angeles. Their goal was to provide hats to the marchers in D.C., a goal supported by knitters from around the United States and around the world. The handcrafted pink caps with cat ears — a reference to Trump’s vulgar statements about grabbing women’s genitals revealed in a leaked video shortly before the election — turned into a global movement and became a symbol of solidarity among women, not only at the D.C. march, but also at other marches around the country.
Putting a Jewish face on the Women’s March in Philadelphia, a number of Jewish organizations cosponsored a breakfast event called “Nosh Before You March.” The event was an opportunity for prayer, song and Torah study, with a focus on women’s rights and social justice. Dan Loeb, publisher of The Philadelphia Jewish Voice attended the pre-march service and described it as “a bubble of sanity at a time when our country really needs it.”
Susan Edy of Beth David Reform Congregation in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania — one of the sponsoring organizations of the service — remembers marching on Washington in 1963 and hearing Martin Luther King speak. “I can’t stand the loss of rights, anti-truth and fake news,” said Edy. “I have to fight for justice.”
The overwhelming feeling of the Women’s March on Philadelphia was solidarity, unity and joy. Although Trump’s election threatens to undermine core liberal values and practices — especially for women, minorities and the poor — the Philadelphia march felt like the beginning of something new, radical and vital — not the end of something.