By: Shane Embury
Student Life Editor
People in cities around the nation protested Trump’s presidency by holding a Women’s March on January 21. Several of HVA’s students got to experience the Women’s March firsthand–some stayed here in Knoxville, and others headed all the way to Washington, D.C., to fight for gender equality.
“I went to the Women’s March in Washington, D.C.,” said junior Emma Byrd. “I didn’t think there would be as many people as there was. The Metro was packed like sardines.”
“When we got to the train station, you couldn’t even see the ground because there were so many people,” added her sister, freshman Grace Byrd. “You could look forward and you’d see a sea of people. It took an hour to get the tickets for the train.”
The overwhelming turnout was not the only part of the march that took the girls by surprise. What was more shocking was that the march never ended up happening at all.
“We were supposed to march on Constitution Street,” said Emma, “but there were so many people, it already filled up the street. There was no march. We had to change our goal because there was so many people.”
The crowd marched to the White House instead, and the sisters were eager to share their experiences. For instance, Grace spoke about the people she saw gathering into groups and singing. She also told of another experience outside the White House that left her surprised.
“People were putting their signs all over the White House fence,” said Grace, “and then they started pushing it down and people were like ‘Yeah, push it down! Push it down!’ We went away because we were afraid it was going to get violent. It turned out it wasn’t violent.”
One little-known aspect of the Women’s March in D.C. was that a few basic functions had to be suppressed during the march: most notably, eating and using the restroom. The girls recalled a line of Porta Potties, all of which were locked. In addition, a lack of restaurants caused them to go the day without food, but the excitement of the march distracted them from any hunger.
“Honestly, I didn’t feel hungry,” said Emma. “I didn’t go to the bathroom once all day. I didn’t think about it at all.”
This lack of facilities was one of many aspects setting the D.C. march apart from the march here in Knoxville. Senior Megan Hall, who attended the Women’s March in Knoxville, said, “A lot of the times when we were marching, we would pass a restaurant and there would be people from the march inside the restaurant. The chain was so long that you could stop and get a meal.”
Although Market Square can not fit as many people as Washington, D.C., Hall still describes the event as being packed with people, which proves that the fight for women’s rights speaks to a lot of citizens here in Knoxville.
“[Volunteers tried to register everyone], which is how they roughly get a number of how many people were there,” said Hall. “But we think the number was really inaccurate because the official number they gave was somewhere around two thousand, and there were way more than two thousand people there. There were probably two thousand in the first third.”
Although it is the Women’s March, it was not for only women. Men also had the opportunity to go out and fight for women’s rights, and all three of the HVA students could agree that there were men among the crowds, campaigning for that common cause.
“There was a lot of men there actually, and it was really nice to see them supporting women’s causes,” said Grace.
“The men there were really supporting it. It was good to see them there so it wasn’t just women, it was everyone,” said Emma.
“I was impressed,” said Hall, “especially at how vehement some of them were, with supporting women, and not speaking over women, and then using their voice as a platform to elevate women’s voices and women’s issues.”
Each student enthusiastically stated that she would love to participate in another Women’s March if given the opportunity. However, hopefully at this point in society, people’s eyes and ears will open to the necessary change needed to reach true gender equality, and another Women’s March will not be needed at all.