Columbia and Barnard students hit the streets in both NYC and Washington to protest Trump on Saturday, January 21. We sent senior staffer Sarah Dahl to our nation’s capital get the scoop on why students attended the Women’s March there, what they thought of it, and what their goals are looking forward.
Though New York had it’s own sizable protest last Saturday, campus organizations made preparations to send students to D.C. Barnard’s Athena Center ordered three buses, and at Columbia, Beyond The Box chartered a bus. Leading up to the march, Barnard Res Life hosted two separate poster-making events in dorm lounges, and Teacher’s College held a poster-making party.
The chartered buses were accessible, as they left directly from campus, and feasible, as they departed early Saturday morning and returned late Saturday night, negating the need for overnight accommodations.
Momo Arbeit BC ’19 said that the buses were a large factor in her decision to go to D.C. “Barnard was offering a really attractive deal,” she said, adding, “Also I’d never been to a protest outside of New York.”
Students cited a desire for solidarity and sense of purpose as main reasons for attending.
“I wanted to support everyone who came out,” Momo said.
“It was great to be with my family, and march for what I believe in,not just because it’s historical, but because I felt like I needed my values to be shown. I don’t approve of Trump’s policies, and I’m one of the many that don’t,” Marie Sgouros BC ’19 said, who attended with her mom, aunts, and a friend.
Grace Mueller BC ’19 agreed, “I definitely wanted to show solidarity and make our voices heard.”
Students did have criticisms of the march.
Kelsey Smith BC ’19 said, “It was a very general march. With past marches on Washington, like the Civil Rights march, there were very clear objectives.”
Marie said, “This may not be directly the organizers’ fault, but I felt like there weren’t enough people of color at the march. I think there’s going to need to be more of a discussion about how we get diversity out to these types of marches.”
Grace added, “There was a lot of white feminism, and kind of exclusive signs focusing on anatomy that’s not inclusive of trans women. Also signs saying ‘tiny hands can’t build a wall’–I know that’s an emotionally appealing thing to say, but I think there’s so much truth to simple facts–that Trump wants to have an alternative reality. One of the most powerful signs I saw was, ‘the president of the United States has sexually assaulted women.'”
Marie said, “I hope there will be more of a conversation about how 53% of white women nationally voted for Trump…the statistics are astounding, and we need to have a national dialogue about it.” But, she added, “I think that the march is a step towards that.”
Looking forward, Grace said, “We have a lot of work, as white women especially. I’m hoping to get more involved in racial justice issues. Not just calling out people, but calling in people in a way that invites further engagement and self-education.” To this end, Grace mentioned the national organization Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ), which she said aims to “not place the burden of educating white people about racial issues on people of color.”
Kelsey agreed. “Hopefully there’ll be continued progress, and it’s not just people going for the sake of marching, but actions after.”
Kelsey went to D.C. the day before the march, and watched part of the inauguration. “It was so starkly different to see the two types of crowds,” she said. “It felt like once again we were missing each other in what the discussion was. You could even see it in the street vendors–Friday it was all pro-Trump apparel, Saturday it was all Women’s March apparel or pictures of Obama.”
She wished that there could have been more conversation. “It felt like one crowd was going in and another was going out. I get that the women’s march wasn’t the space for a Trump-based dialogue, but I think that there should be clear objectives for what happens after [the march], to engage in that dialogue. We were missing each other and not understanding each other.”
Marie is optimistic for change. “The one thing the march definitely did is inspire a lot of hope in general. When Trump was elected I felt very morose and not myself, it felt like such a shock. I know we live in a bubble, but to realize that through the result of the election was really scary. So I felt like I was doing my part, and will continue to do my part.”
There are several ways to get involved on campus and in the city. SURJ has an NYC chapter, and there are many other NYC-based organizations doing excellent work on a plethora of issues Trump threatens. Protests and workshops occur throughout the city, all the time. Barnard Divest partners with and supports several organizations that are working against Trump. And a Barnard student has set up a series of twice-weekly informal action sessions to mobilize people in efforts against Trump.
The Women’s March doesn’t end in Washington.
Picture courtesy of Sarah Dahl