They caught the 8 a.m. Clinton ferry, loaded four buses in Mukilteo, rolled out a pink banner in downtown Seattle and made history.
Or should that be herstory?
More than 200 women, men and high school students from Whidbey Island stepped into the Womxn’s March on Seattle Saturday, joining a record-breaking rebuke of President Donald J. Trump, sworn in only the day before. Called POWER for People of Whidbey Elegantly Resisting, they stood up for those whom they fear the new president will diminish, deport or disparage.
“I just didn’t like the rhetoric I heard during the election from Mr. Trump,” said Sharon Stone of Oak Harbor. “I just don’t believe our government is as inclusive as I’d like it.”
Others worried that hard-fought gains for women’s reproductive rights, gay marriage, transgender acceptance and other issues will slip away in the Republican-controlled Congress.
“All of the issues we’ve pooled together the last 40 years that provide a big safety net is being decreed as over,” said Mar-e Robnett. She traveled from Freeland with her husband, Kent Hanson, who said he marched “because I have a wife and a daughter and a mother.”
Seattle march organizers on Sunday said 175,000 people participated, more than three times the expected number. Police estimated between 120,000 to 150,000 marchers.
Arriving late because of traffic and human gridlock, the Whidbey crowd somehow wedged their way into the procession behind the Native American group leading the march and in front of loud, proud union organizers. Although the march had been billed as silent, it quickly became obvious that tens of thousands of women were not going to be told to keep quiet.
Various chants — “This is what democracy looks like,” “We go high when they go low,” and “What do we want? Healthcare. When do we want it? Now” — punctuated the three-mile-long stretch of humanity. Even three young girls, who couldn’t have been more than 7 years old, pounded fists from the curb, yelling, “Hey hey, ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go.”
Plenty of men walked beside wives and daughters. Some pushed baby strollers along the route from Judkins Park near Capital Hill to Seattle Center.
While pink pussyhats symbolized the day, diversity in color, culture and age also distinguished it.
“It is amazing to feel that many people all moving through a city in solidarity with you,” said Diane Jhueck, who organized Whidbey’s group. “To see our surface differences, in age, gender, ethnicity, physical ability, lifestyle and feel so at one with everyone.”
Jhueck, a Langley activist with experience running nonprofits, put the word out one month ago via Facebook that one bus was being chartered for the Seattle march.
Demand soon led to ordering three more buses from Durham School Services in Everett. In total, 232 people reserved seats but illness forced 30 to cancel. Jhueck estimated another 200 to 300 people from Whidbey drove to the Seattle march.
Additionally, between 1,000 to 2,000 people participated in a march in Langley on Saturday, participants estimated. It was one of a dozen held in small towns and other cities around Washington state.
No violence, incidents or arrests were reported by Seattle Police, or at any other “sister city” marches.
“I have attended numerous protests and rallies in my life. None have felt so peaceful and loving,” Jhueck added. “Trump has woken a lioness and she is not going back to sleep.”
Causes were serious, but the mood jubilant. The sun even came out, and stayed. Police officers bicycling the route and standing at blocked intersections also got into the pink. After seeing a line of officers posing with marchers, friends Catherine Lichterman and Betty Bond persuaded them to do it again for their cameras. Seattle Police Officers Benjamin Frieler and Aaron Johnson gladly obliged.
“I’ve never seen so many smiling, cheerful people,” Philip Simpson commented over coffee after the Whidbey group reached Seattle Center at about 2 p.m.
“It was very therapeutic,” he said. Since Trump’s election, Simpson said he’s experienced “a lot of serious anxiety, anxiety of the chest pain kind.”
Checking his phone for messages from his daughter attending a march in Amsterdam, one of dozens held globally in 60 countries, Simpson expressed awe at the national and international response.
“For this many people to come out in so many cities, it’s a sign of hope,” he said. “This really lifted me a lot. You know what? Maybe we’re not totally doomed.”
Numbers ranging from 1.5 million to 4.7 million have been cited as the number of marchers who assembled at more than 500 locations across the United States. It’s being called the largest single-day protest in American history.
Pam Fick of Oak Harbor said she’s determined not to watch “our country go down the tubes.”
“It’s not going to happen, not on my watch. This is only the beginning,” said Fick, who sported a button, reading, “Keep your Rosaries off my Ovaries.”
Racism, sexism, fascism, feminism, and elitism were common sign themes. Also addressed: climate change, equal opportunity, equal pay, keeping abortion legal, Russia and respect for women.
Among the many placards: “The only minority destroying America is the rich,” “Make America Think Again,” “We Shall Overcomb,” “Build Bridges, not Walls.”
Dianna MacLeod of Langley was among those holding signs not-yet-ready-for-primetime hometown newspapers. Hers featured the word “claws” with big black paw prints.
One young Whidbey marcher’s sign was particularly popular. She was stopped many times by others marchers wanting a photo. No doubt, her sign, “If men got pregnant, contraceptives would be free and bacon flavored,” has become a Facebook favorite.
Kim Jordan of Clinton, held aloft a sign reading, “Science is Not a Liberal Conspiracy.”
“It really is a feeling of solidarity,” she said. “It’s good to know you’re not alone.”
Some Island County public officials also took to the streets.
Taking off a pink hat just given to him, Greg Banks joked, “You might recognize me now.”
“He’s the bravest pink hat of all,” chimed in Julie Grove of Banks, the long-time Island County prosecutor. Grove gave her identity as “the only dentist in Coupeville.”
Banks, participating as a private citizen, said he felt compelled to march.
“I’m really distressed about the direction our country is headed,” he said. “I needed to do something other than just sit home and complain.”
Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson and Rene Neff of the Langley City Council also participated in the Seattle march.
The Seattle event was named using the intentional misspelling of “womxn” to symbolize intersectionality with the transgender community, its organizers said.
David Bieniek and husband Ervin Knezek both attached black-and-white photos of their mothers to their hats as a tribute during the Seattle march.
“Basic human rights, that’s what I’m marching for because one by one, they feel like they’re being eroded,” Knezek said. “I’m also marching for our marriage. A marriage is a marriage. We want it to stay that way.”
Sarah MacDougall of Freeland succinctly summed up her concern.
“This is a dangerous time in our country,” she said. “I’m not protesting. I’m standing up for what is right.”
Earlier in the day, Grace Webb waited with her mother and older brother, Miles, to board the Kittitas ferry. She nervously anticipated participating in her first big protest march.
“I care about women’s rights,” said Webb, a South Whidbey High School sophomore.
Too young to vote, she said she was disappointed with those who didn’t bother to vote and with those who voted for Trump. Her mom, Penny Webb, cited the influence of grandparents for “inspiring both my kids to take a more active role in the process.”
Another mother and daughter team, Gina and Ginny Mammano, wore matching felt hats but had different reasons for participating.
“Being a former abused woman, I’m here speaking out for their dignity,” said Gina Mammano, who lives in Freeland. Daughter Ginny, visiting from Los Angeles, said she was representing “straight, white Christians” who don’t approve of Trump.
Gathering together for post-march photos near the Seattle Center fountain gave time for the Whidbey group to reflect.
“Today was fun. Today was empowering,” Judy Feldman told Webb and her friends. Her impressions turned into an impromptu political assessment for the circle of high school students.
“It’s my generation’s fault,” Feldman said of the presidential election outcome. “I’m 55 years old. So for you guys, we need to be strong, we need to be engaged.
“We have a president, we have a Congress, we have a supreme court that are all working against us. We have to be strategic, we have to talk to each other.”
Whether the moment or the march will turn into a movement remains to be seen.
For the hundreds from Whidbey Island who traveled to Seattle and joined hundreds of thousands of others peacefully protesting in the streets, the day began at dawn on a ferry dock and ended under a starry sky on a ferry dock.
Then, with stories of history in the making, they scattered into the night to waiting cars, family and friends.