By Charlotte Crang
On Saturday, I marched through London with women, ranging from little girls to pensioners, and their supporters. I was one of millions around the world who took to the streets to stand up for women’s rights and human dignity — the day after Donald Trump became U.S. president.
I grew up around Washington, DC, where there is a tradition of marching to make voices heard in the capital. It was fitting that Martin Luther King Jr. Day fell on the Monday before Saturday’s march: After learning about the U.S. Civil Rights Movement in school, marching seemed to me solidly part of history.
As kids, we assumed the governments of the world had learned to listen to their people before action was needed.
Yesterday, I heeded a call from the Women’s Equality Party to join thousands in the heart of London to highlight women’s rights and other, progressive causes.
Still, the inauguration of Trump was on everyone’s mind.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted that 100,000 people took part in Saturday’s march, a huge increase from the 18,000 who joined the demonstration against domestic violence in November 2015.
This year’s march was different. It was all about inclusiveness, and diverse groups of people and causes were represented.
I believe this rare gathering can be an important piece of history.
The organizers’ slogan included a call for “new, positive politics.” After the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, and as nationalism gains ground across Europe, protesters said they could no longer passively stand by.
Many of those who attended were foreigners studying or working in London and who wanted to join the London march to spotlight problems in their home nations, to raise awareness of global issues or to add their voices to anti-Trump protests taking place in many U.S. cities.
Marie, a student from Paris studying at University of the Arts London, joined her British friends to raise awareness for feminism and trans-feminism, and for reproductive rights in France.
Sam, a Canadian living in London, said he would love to have joined the protest in Washington, but this was the closest possible outlet for his anger about the U.S. inauguration.
Protesters’ signs highlighted causes ranging from climate change to anti-racism and nuclear disarmament. Some marchers focused on UK-specific issues, from the cuts in the National Health Service to remembrance of Jo Cox, the lawmaker who was killed by a right-wing attacker just weeks before the referendum on UK membership in the EU.
The atmosphere was peaceful, if a little sad and dispirited. Some marchers questioned the effectiveness of such protests, particularly given that Trump had already taken on the mantle of U.S. power.
I, too, wish I could have been in the United States yesterday. But I was pleased that the London march was so inclusive and peaceful — and yet a call to no longer view politics so passively.
I believe that with sustained action to promote the issues we feel passionate about, this rare gathering can be an important piece of history as well.
(The views are the author’s.)
Charlotte Crang is studying French and English at King’s College London. She has lived in six countries and worked at international events including the London 2012 Olympics. She spent last year studying at the Sorbonne in Paris. Charlotte is interested in learning about other cultures and innovators around the globe.