On January 21, 2017, the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, more than 100,000 people march through the streets of Seattle in what is believed to be the largest political march in city history. Initially, organizers expect about 50,000 people, but more than twice that number show up. Participants march to oppose racism, sexism, and hate as well as other issues such as climate change and immigration. Many are wearing the signature hot-pink cat-eared knit caps known as pussyhats. The line of marchers stretches more than 3 miles from Judkins Park in Seattle's Central District to Seattle Center. The Seattle event is part of a coordinated day of protest with similar marches occurring throughout the state, across the nation, and around the world.
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The idea of a national women's march was proposed the day after the November 8, 2016, presidential election by a retired lawyer living in Hawaii. Teresa Shook was distressed to find that Donald Trump had won and went on social media to vent. "She turned to the pro-Hillary Clinton "Pantsuit Nation" Facebook page and posted that she thought a pro-women march was needed. Others agreed. She hoped someone else would take the lead, but when no one did, she asked about how to make a Facebook group and did it herself. As she went to bed, a few dozen friends had said they would attend. By the time she woke up, 10,000 people had RSVP'd to what would eventually become the Women's March on Washington" ("The Woman Who Started ...").
Many Seattle residents considered flying across the country to be on hand for the national march. Instead, within days, a local alternative became available. "Thanks to the power of social media and conference-call technology, a few local women tapped into a rapidly organizing national tour de force that saw the creation of state and city groups within days of the election. The growing Seattle group decided to organize its own march" ("Most Influential Seattleites ...").
As social media spread the word and friends told friends, the Seattle event grew in size and scope. At first, Seattle organizers expected about 50,000 people; that estimate was later increased to 75,000. On the day of the march, attendance was pegged at 100,000 to 120,000. The crowd grew so large that marchers at the front of the group had already reached Seattle Center, the terminus, before others had left the starting point at Judkins Park.
All Walks of Life
Seattle's Womxn's March participants were a mix of races, ages, genders, and socio-economic groups. For baby boomers, the event harkened back to their youth when protests over the Vietnam War or the Nixon administration were common. The mood was joyful and ebullient, sassy and defiant.
A core group of about 20 people organized the Seattle march. Mirroring the diversity of the participants, this racially diverse group ranged in age from 22 to 64, and brought a variety of lifestyles and life experiences to the table. Some were community activists; others had never been to a protest march in their lives. They chose the word "womxn" to be more gender-inclusive.
"Rather than featuring politicians and other famous speakers, the Seattle march deliberately chose to highlight some of the 180 participating organizations, representing disenfranchised groups that would be most impacted by a Trump administration, such as those focused on immigrant rights, reproductive rights and climate issues" ("Most Influential Seattleites ...").
Sister marches were held in Spokane, Wenatchee, Walla Walla, Vancouver, and Bellingham, among other cities. Some of the largest marches were in Washington, D.C., where 500,000 marchers participated; New York City with an attendance of about 400,000; and Chicago with 250,000. Overall, officials estimate between 3.3 million and 4.6 million people marched in demonstrations in U. S. cities big and small.
Knitting the Protestors Together
A defining symbol of the march was the bright-pink pussyhat worn by demonstrators in a show of solidarity. The Pussyhat Project was started in California by two friends, Jayna Zweiman and Krista Suh, who took knitting classes together in the winter of 2016. Suh planned to attend the women's march in Washington, D.C., and figured she needed a hat to keep warm for the January event. Zweiman, who was recuperating from an injury, could not attend the march but wanted to be there in spirit. "Together, a marcher and a non-marcher, they conceived the idea of creating a sea of pink hats at Women's Marches everywhere that would make both a bold and powerful visual statement of solidarity, and also allow people who could not participate themselves -- whether for medical, financial, or scheduling reasons -- a visible way to demonstrate their support for women's rights" ("Our Story").
In Seattle, thousands of marchers bought or knitted their own pussyhats, creating the strong colorful visual that Zweiman and Suh hoped to achieve. So many hats were made that several knitting shops in the area sold out of pink yarn days in advance. Even the Fremont Troll donned a pussyhat that day.
Although it was meant to be a silent march, singing and chanting rang out from time to time along the march route. Many of the marchers carried hand-lettered signs. Some of the messages were positive, such as "We are better than this" or "Girls just wanna have fun-damental rights." Others were more blunt: "Nasty women unite" or "Dump the chump."
Although restaurants along the route saw a spike in customers that day as hungry marchers stopped in for lunch, other businesses experienced negative repercussions caused by the traffic jams that resulted around the city center. Many of these businesses were located in the city's Chinatown-International District. The Womxn's March weekend was scheduled on the last weekend before Lunar New Year, typically a big shopping day among the Asian community. One of the owners of the Viet-Wah Supermarket, a store along the march route, noted that sales were 65 percent lower in 2017 compared with the Saturday before Lunar New Year the previous year.
As the crowd moved along the route, Seattle police and officials from the Seattle Department of Transportation used social media to update drivers trying to get in or out of downtown Seattle. At one point, SDOT sent out this text: "Plz be patient & plan for delays getting in/out of downtown Seattle this afternoon. Enjoy the city as the #WomxnsMarchSeattle continues" ("Traffic Alert …").
In its November 2017 issue, Seattle Magazine named the leaders of the women-led march to its list of most influential Seattleites of 2017.