By Rachel Gallagher
The Women’s March on Washington on January 22, 2017 gathered roughly 500,000 protesters in Washington D.C. and millions more at sister marches in cities across the country and around the world. Among those marching in Washington was a group of roughly seventy students from the Catholic University of America. The group, organized by junior politics major Raelyn Schnappauf, met at the Brookland metro stop Saturday morning to travel to the march together and represent the students of Catholic University. Despite Saturday’s overcast sky, the streets surrounding the National Mall in Washington D.C. were filled as an estimated half million women, men, and children marched to protest President Donald Trump as he began his first day in office.
Schnappauf’s goal in organizing the group from Catholic University was to demonstrate that despite common misconceptions stating the contrary. “Catholic feminists are actually very present,” said Schnappauf, “the Women’s March is America coming together to stand up for their rights and for diversity.” Addressing the presence of gender equality on campus, Schnappauf said she “[doesn’t] feel women are represented in their capacity at CUA.”
The Women’s March began with a rally at 10 a.m. Saturday morning. The event’s main stage was placed on Independence Avenue and masses of people crowded the surrounding streets and National Mall.
The march’s rally had a number of renowned speakers and performers, among them were Grammy Award winner Alicia Keys, feminist writer and activist Gloria Steinem, and 6-year-old immigrant rights activist and daughter of undocumented Mexican immigrants, Sophie Cruz. The speakers came from various religious, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds and each speaker was accompanied by interpreters who signed the speeches in American Sign Language from the stage. The speeches were broadcast onto screens located in the streets for marchers who could not see the main stage.
The event brought together communities from across the nation who felt concerned for their rights, particularly due to the “rhetoric of the past election cycle,” as stated in the March’s official mission statement. The mission statement goes on to list “immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault,” as communities which have suffered as a result of the aforementioned rhetoric.
“I went because Trump’s presidency makes me really nervous, especially because of his war and torture policies, and I believe in a consistent life ethic,” said freshman theology and philosophy double major Jeanne Marie Hathaway when asked why she attended the Women’s March. “I was going to go with a pro-life group and then when that group, New Wave Feminists, got uninvited I especially resolved to go with them,” said Hathaway.
Following the rally—which lasted close to five hours and two hours past the scheduled 1:15 PM end time—the hordes of protesters marched North across the National Mall toward Pennsylvania Avenue. Signs and posters carried by marchers represented a variety of causes. Signs addressed the wage gap, reproductive rights, the rights of LGBTQ* individuals, rights of disabled individuals, climate change, racism, xenophobia, and immigration. Many signs also referenced past comments of President Donald Trump’s including a play on his campaign slogan of “Make America Great Again:” to say “Make America Kind Again.”
“The Women’s March was a really beautiful thing to be a part of,” said freshman history major Michela Caffery about her experience at the Women’s March. “The most important thing about being Catholic is to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. That’s what we were doing.”