By Sarah Howison Saturday, January 21
Before the rally that preceded the march, organizers were gently reminding participants to keep off the flowerbeds and the grass “as much as possible,” and the marchers were complying. But as the crowd grew—far past the three to five thousand estimated by the organizers—it quickly became a choice between the grass, or the street.
The organizers, anticipating a crowd less than half the size, had organized the speakers’ podium in the central gazebo, with the amps facing forward onto the Civic Lawn. Likely this would have sufficed for the smaller crowd, but with the crowd filling the park on all sides of the gazebo, many marchers became restless and mildly frustrated at being unable to hear the speakers or their instructions.
However, when participants began streaming onto Elm to begin the march, the frustration melted away. The marchers were in high spirits, breaking into occasional chants along the way. Signs in evidence covered many different issues, from Black Lives Matter to LGBT rights to a few vintage “Keep Abortion Legal” signs from demonstrations in the 1980s and 1990s. Some signs were intersectional, combining more than one issue onto a single piece of poster-board. And it seemed that nearly half the marchers were wearing the pink cat-eared hats that had begun as a gesture of support for the march on Washington.
There was no friction with police; most appeared happy, and smiled or waved when marchers thanked them. There was no sign of a militarized presence. The main source of friction on the route came from a few marchers who had stayed behind from the day’s previous demonstration: A pro-life march denoting the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which had taken place at 11am. One man, holding a very large and very graphic anti-abortion sign, cut through side streets in order to be visible at several different points along the route.
The last of the marchers reached the park around 2pm. The crowd began dispersing throughout the city, signs held low now, rolled up or resting easily on their shoulders. But for an hour or more after, marchers could still be found throughout the city—still wearing their pink hats.