Local Women March with Tens of Thousands on Mall

Themes for march range from Russian interference in election to sexual harassment.

The big difference between last year’s women’s march and the 2018 march was not the number of pink pussy hats, although they had proliferated. It was not the creativity of posters, which continued to be biting. It was the number of groups mobilized since January 2017, who came back to this march triumphant that their efforts over the past year had changed the political dynamic in their district or their state. They were ebullient: they had found so many like-minded men and women willing to donate their time to making change happen. And they were focused on the next goal: 2018 efforts were already in process. Some of these were Arlington groups: We of Action VA (WofAVA) and Women Lawyers on Guard (WLG), and local members of the National Organization of Women (NOW) or the League of Women Voters.

The presence of aspiring candidates for 2018 — and the diversity of speakers — made this march different. Speakers were less Hollywood and more grassroots political: Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and a host of newly elected representatives from all over the country spoke about the need to vote in 2018.

Nadia Hashimi, who is running to replace U.S. Rep. John Delaney (D-MD) told the group she had marched last year in outrage, but this year, she stood before the group as a candidate. Hashimi, a physician in Maryland, hopes to be the first Afghan American woman elected to Congress; she said it would be nice if there weren’t any more firsts: that the era of “first woman to be elected” would end and women holding office or running agencies would be the norm.

Emily’s List was represented, and the filmmaker Kamala Lopez, of Equal Means Equal, spoke. Toni Van Pelt, president of NOW, and Nadia S. Hassan, the Muslim activist, spoke. Speakers hailed the black women who turned around the Alabama election recently, and the number of women who had run and won in Virginia. Nucchi Currie, another aspiring political candidate spoke, and Joanna Lohman, the professional soccer player and activist, revved up the crowd, tearing up her planned speech. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, in town because of the government shut down, also spoke. Several of the speakers reminded marchers the next election is only 290 days away.

One Arlington group at the march was new since last year: “Women Lawyers on Guard,” or WLG. Women Lawyers on Guard is a non-profit started in January 2017 by matching the network of (mostly, but not exclusively) lawyers with the diverse legal needs of other organizations, assisting nonprofits who have similar missions. One non-profit asked WLG if they could find a volunteer to look into the question of whether fake news can be stopped. When Cory Amron put that to her network, three people volunteered within less than one minute to help address the question. Another tech-oriented organization “client” has a web-based product that, in an encrypted manner, allows victims of sexual harassment to report the incident. If the victim wishes, they can be notified when the website receives more than one other report about that perpetrator. A volunteer from WLG is helping. Its network of experienced attorneys and other professionals has provided pro-bono assistance to the National Women’s Law Center, the International Refugee Assistance Project, and Flippable, among others. See www.womenlawyersonguard.org for more information or to join.

Another Arlington group that has gained momentum since January 2017 is “We of Action Virginia” (WofAVA). See www.WofAVA.org for more information or to join.

The march was supposed to start at 1:12 p.m., but it took a long time to get through the list of at least 31 speakers. Men and women, toddlers and infants, people on crutches and in wheelchairs, waited until after 2 p.m. to finally start the march to the White House. A number of marchers voiced the hope the list of speakers would be shorter when the march returns next year.

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