They’re arriving by the busload, piling out of carpools, spilling out of planes and trains. They’re wearing knitted “pussy hats,” carrying sleeping bags, and toting clever hand-made signs. Thousands of mostly female protestors have made their way to Washington, DC, for an epic sleepover: sharing hotel rooms, crashing on friend’s couches and floors, and staying with distant relatives, so they can join the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday (Jan. 21). The event has become, for some, a crowd-sourced affirmation of female empowerment in the wake of the election and inauguration of US president Donald Trump.
The march has also attracted environmental activists, union members, and gay rights defenders, among others, who see feel vulnerable in the face of a Trump administration. It will be “the largest mass mobilization that any new administration has seen on its first day,” one organizer predicted to Vogue.
Organizers hope the event, “will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights,” they state on their website. “We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.”
Figuring out how many will actually attend the march is difficult—early estimates anticipate up to 200,000. But there are some signs that the number of Women’s March attendees could rival even the smaller-than-expected attendance at Trump’s inauguration. Nearly 2,100 buses are registered to park in DC on Saturday—five times the figure registered for the Trump inauguration on Friday.
Yes, the Facebook filter bubble effect is such that if you’re a woman of a certain political leaning, it’s hard not to think “all” your friends are participating—if not in Washington, than in dozens of “sister” marches around the world. But women do seem to be flowing into Washington in big numbers.
According to Wanderu, the US’s largest train and bus booking platform, over 81% of travelers to DC this week were women. Indeed, on Thursday, the long lines for the buses from New York to DC were predominantly female. When the driver of one bus mentioned the women’s march as he pulled into Washington from New York on Thursday, a woman shouted from the back, “That’s why we’re here!” and cheers erupted through the aisles.
Planes to DC have been filled with enthusiastic marchers, and in one instance, a flight attendant asked for a round of applause for “all the nasty women on board,” a nod to a Trump description of political rival Hillary Clinton.
In the early evening on Friday, the crowd at Union Station, Washington’s train hub, was overwhelmingly female—a line for taxis stretched 41 people long, and only 9 of them were men.
The celebration over Trump’s election continues late into the night, with a series of balls and events. But tomorrow morning in DC, just blocks from where Trump delivered a dark inaugural speech about a broken America; dozens of speakers and performers, from American Federation of Teachers head Randi Weingarten, to 1990s folk rock duo The Indigo Girls, to actress Scarlett Johansson, will take the stage. There will be a lactation tent and a bike valet, and most likely, a big crowd by the time the proceedings start at 10am (the march begins at 1pm.)
Student Madison Guare said she was taking part in the march “to make it clear that we don’t support the president’s agenda.” Guare seemed incredulous as she spoke at Union Station. “I can’t believe I have to call him the president now.”