FOR sheer size, number of speakers and geographicalsweep around the world, the Women‘s March on Washington on January 20 ought to be enrolled in the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest protest march in history.
Things get tricky, however, when we try to reckon whether the event will be remembered, in comparison to, say, the Civil Rights March on Washington in 1963 and Mao Zedong’s Long March in 1949.
According to news reports, the women’s march attracted over half a million protesters. At the same time, more than 600 “sister marches” were held in cities around the world. Tens of thousands of women and their supporters took to the streets of Washington D.C.and other cities to participate in the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday, January 20, 2017.
The Women’s March movement was sparked off, according to Reuters, by a Facebook request for a women’s march by Teresa Shook in Hawaii. Her statement, “I think we should march,” circulated among her Facebook friends and eventually snowballed into a global phenomenon.
All the participants in the marches were united against discrimination against women and xenophobia. They marched in support of civil rights and protested divisive and vitriolic political rhetoric that characterized the 2016 general election in the United States. They sought to delegitimize Donald Trump‘s accession to the US presidency on the very day of his oathtaking.
Marches were planned in about 60 countries around the world in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington. More than 600 “sister marches” took place in cities around the world, with an estimated 2.2 million people participating globally in support of women’s rights, according to London‘s Daily Mail. Women celebrities joined the marches, and delivered widely covered speeches.
And yet for all the effort, it is Trump’s inaugural speech and his words, which will probably be remembered, and quoted in the days and years to come. Trump’s call for “America First” and “Make America great again!” will have more legs than Madonna’s claim that she thought about blowing up the White House.
We think the weakness of the women’s effort lay in the immodesty of its goal. It sought to steal the thunder from Trump‘s oathtaking. This was a grandiose goal, because the moment clearly belonged to Trump. He had won the US presidential election fair and square.
The original civil rights march on August 28,1963, after which the women’s march was modeled, attracted only a quarter of a million people. It had only a few speakers, but it had the Reverend Martin Luther King.
King told the crowd, “I have a dream,” drawing on both “the American dream” and religious themes, speaking of an America where his children “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” He followed this with an exhortation to “let freedom ring” across the nation, and concluded with the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”
Freedom has, indeed, rung for black Americans in America.
King’s words have not been forgotten. Madonna’s threat of blowing up the White House and scores of other women’s march speeches are probably already forgotten today.