This Saturday I was one of the 100,000+ attendants of the women's march in London. As you know, it went without incident. It was a part of a magnificent and beautiful day of solidarity.
We are living in times where we are being pulled apart. Were it not for a recent act of parliament, we'd be speeding towards Brexit. Trump's "America for America" inauguration speech suggested a future of increased isolationism. Being a tiny part of a group of millions of like-minded individuals standing in common cause gave me, and I think many others, a sense of hope for the future.
However, some people, some who were supportive of the goals of the protest have questioned the methods of the protest itself. After all, if you are protesting, why protest in a way allowed and supported by those you are protesting against. Perhaps you need to cause a scene, be angry, and obstruct those you protest against.
Perhaps there needs to be a threat to the status quo created by the heroes of the suffrage movements. Those in the civil rights movement in the USA were of course, beaten, attacked on the street and arrested, others murdered by the state or otherwise (Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Mohandas Gandhi, etc). Even the Occupy movement was at times met with aggression and police intervention. If your method of protest doesn't ire the state, then what is the point?
I have been to a couple of protests and demonstrations, which did indeed have some violence and police action. At the anti-austerity demonstration against government cuts to education, the NHS and public spending, a splinter group smashed windows, and took over shops they felt catered for the very rich - those who they felt would benefit or be unaffected by the cuts. In the end this clouded the entire demonstration and any public support there may have been was ultimately lost, with all demonstrators being considered vandals and looters. Perhaps, then the culture of political protests has changed?
More likely, though, is that what happened on Saturday was not a protest, nor a demonstration. Indeed, only the dangerously naive or historically ignorant among the million plus marchers on Saturday would consider any element that day akin to being a suffragette in the 1920s, or one who marched with MLK in Selma (though notably, beautifully, some that did march with King like John Lewis attended and spoke at a march on Saturday).
Instead what occurred on Saturday was fundamentally a movement of solidarity. Those that attended weren't just marching against a state, or a man (Donald Trump) but a mindset. After all, protesting the elected head of state (even though he lost the popular vote by 3 million) of a different country is ultimately doomed to fail. Though his policies and his speech affects us all, Trump is the President of the United States, and not the United Kingdom.
Trump and his misogyny are a symptom of a larger social issue that is as prevalent over here in the UK as it is in the USA. Were it not, Trump would have been no more likely to become president than I am. When I heard Trump's disgusting "grab them by the pussy" recording, there was something depressingly familiar about it. I've heard similar talk in pubs and schoolyards, it's common, though rarely so extreme. Such talk is reprehensible and largely socially unacceptable, but is a product of a larger, culturally ingrained sexism and sexual entitlement.
Challenging this attitude is a key reason why we all marched. Not a particular state of governmental policy but a series of entrenched and repeated values that are culturally engrained, values that were once accepted and now are being fought. Values that have made women, girls, ethnic minorities, migrant, refugee, and LGBTQ people second class citizens, people silenced and without their equal share of rights. In this sense this march was fundamentally about unity, a method of showing the world, and each other that such cultural norms will no longer be accepted.
This is why it is so important, however, when people who would be or should be supportive of the march disassociate themselves from it because of its appeals to peace and unity. They only fuel the disunity and as such damage the march from within