Students march for women’s rights in D.C, NYC and Asbury Park

Four CHS students attended Women’s Marches in Washington D.C., New York, N.Y. and Asbury Park, N.J. and shared their varied experiences.

Junior Zoe McDonnell of Middletown – Washington D.C.

“We will not go away, welcome to your first day!” I, along with over 1 million others, chanted as we marched down the streets of Washington D.C. with our colorful signs held high. I stood on my tiptoes and saw a sea of pink “pussyhats” covering the heads of people of all races, religions, ethnicities, sexualities and genders. In that moment, I realized that I was making history.

We marched for ourselves, for each other and for those unable to be there. We marched to send a message that we will not accept the fascism. We marched because women are strong and powerful, and we can do anything we set our minds to.

Many critics of the marches argue that protesters should just get over it, and accept the fact that Trump is president. They say that marching down streets in the cold with homemade signs doesn’t change laws. But the Women’s March was not about changing laws. It was about making our voices heard, which we accomplished. It was about showing everyone who is angry and upset that they are being oppressed by their own president that they are not alone.

While Trump was criticized repeatedly throughout the rally and march, the main focus was where we will go from here, and what we all as individuals can do right now. Speakers said multiple times that something we can all do in our communities is either join a political campaign, or run for office ourselves. We can truly make a difference.

On January 21, 2017, I marched in solidarity with millions of others around the world. I marched for my future, and for the future of generations to come. I marched for women, black people, Muslims, Mexicans, disabled people, the Earth and everyone and everything else that needs to be heard. And I am going to keep marching until they are.

Senior Allie Kuo of Tinton Falls – New York, N.Y.

I am never going to forget the feeling that struck me as I turned the corner onto Second Avenue in New York City to find the street completely packed with people as far as the eye could see. It was a mass of declarative posters and chanting voices, and this scene was also the reason why it took us nearly five hours to march just over one and a half miles.

What really blew me away was not the sheer number of people there, though that was undoubtedly a part of it. It was the fact that our president and his actions were so reprehensible that it prompted such an enormous gathering of individuals who, with their homemade signs and knitted pink “pussyhats,” were putting their literal and metaphorical foot down to show that this is not okay.

Even as we stood shoulder to shoulder with complete strangers, our fingers and toes turning numb in the cold as we slowly shuffled along the route towards Fifth Avenue, there were smiles and positive spirits all around. I felt a unity among not just my friends and I who marched together, but also among the estimated 300,000 others present at the march. The crowd was ablaze with energy, defiance and determination shining bright in the eyes of my fellow marchers.

We were there to stand up and advocate for our rights as women. We were there to speak on behalf of those who couldn’t. We were there to express our frustrations with the current state of our government and society and to show that frankly, we’re pissed off.

Sure, the march might not have had the ability to create a law or pass a bill. But it sure did send a message, loud and crystal clear, that we as women are not settling for anything, be it less pay or preposterous legislation. And as seen from the people around me, this idea transcended race, gender, religion, ethnicity and age.

I saw young girls and boys, proudly waving posters while perched on top of their parent’s shoulders. I saw men and women with “I’m with her” signs, arms raised high above their heads. There were grandmothers and teenagers, couples and local organizations, marching tirelessly for the daughters, the sisters, the minorities, the future and themselves.

And with my own glittering sign proclaiming “BOY, BYE”, I marched right alongside them.

Junior Courtney Kushnir of Colts Neck – Asbury Park, N.J.

Before I left for the Women’s March on Asbury Park, my mother warned me that if anything turned violent during the protest, I needed to get myself out of there as soon as possible. I came to terms with the fact that things could certainly take a turn for the worse, but I still filled my car with gas, picked up my best friend and hit the road for my first-ever protest as a young activist.

On a somewhat unrelated note, I found a free parking space in Asbury in a largely empty lot right by the beach. I was torn between relishing in this once-in-a lifetime chance and worrying that nobody decided to show up to the march. Luckily, I found out later that almost 6,000 people marched that day, according to the Asbury Park Police. And all of those suckers probably paid for their parking.

My mother’s worries were completely unfounded. Everyone that I was with agreed that we had never felt so safe in such a large group of people. The sense of comradery was really amazing to us all. I was doing a street photography assignment for class, and I expected people to fight back and ask me not to take their picture. But I encountered the exact opposite situation. People saw my camera and angled their faces and clever signs toward –not away from – the lens.

More than one woman commented that they were glad to see us, some young faces fighting for the cause. One woman said to us, “This is your future, girls. Your rights are being taken away,” while wearing a belt adorned with Barack Obama’s face. It was wild. I think she was being a bit bleak, but I suppose her sentiment was to give us some incentive.

Part of what made my experience so positive was my excitement to be exercising my First Amendment rights in such a big way. I felt like I was taking part in something bigger than myself, and I hope that the Women’s March won’t be the last peaceful protest I have the privilege of attending in my lifetime.

Junior Caroline Savage of Brielle – Asbury Park, N.J.

On Inauguration Day, I felt like I was living in the fog of a twisted dream, in some kind of half-awake state. Noon came and went, and after a brief and divisive speech from our new President, small riots broke out in Washington, D.C.. According to CNN, 217 protesters were arrested during the destructive demonstrations. I have to admit, after hearing of those events, I became afraid that the Women’s March would turn similarly violent.

My fears, it turned out, were completely baseless.

The moment I walked into the Asbury Park Festhalle & Biergarten, the headquarters and starting point of the Women’s March on Asbury Park, I knew that I was about to be a part of something extraordinary. The building was buzzing with activity, from posters being made to volunteers being briefed. Workers at the Biergarten offered marchers water, and people of all ages traded stories and laughed at each others’ posters.

What began as a few dozen people a week earlier had grown to a substantial 6,000 person crowd, according to the Asbury Park Police Department. Even surrounded by thousands of complete strangers in one of the tensest political climates in history, I felt overwhelmingly safe. In fact, I had probably never felt as comfortable and safe as I did that day.

One of the most striking things I noticed while marching was the number of men present. I had been expecting a handful of men here and there, but instead I saw hundreds and hundreds of them. Seeing that was one of the most uplifting parts of the whole experience, and proved that feminism isn’t just an issue that affects women, but the population as a whole.

Overall, going to the Women’s March, even though it wasn’t nearly as large as the ones in. Washington D.C. or New York City, was still one of the most awe-inspiring experiences of my life. I will never forget the way it felt to march for issues that I’m passionate about surrounded by people who are just as passionate. History was made on Jan. 21, and it was truly amazing to have been a part of it.