Several members of the McFarland United Church of Christ were in Washington, D.C., on Saturday as part of the estimated half a million participants in the Women’s March in the nation’s capital. Marches were held across the country, including Madison, and world the day after President Donald Trump was sworn into office.
McFarland residents Maddie Loss, 18, and Kristin Gorton, 53, attended the march with 51 other members of the Wisconsin Conference United Church of Christ. Loss attended the event to continue the energy that began while leading up to the presidential election. The UW-Madison freshman was very involved in the election on campus. She and several friends were disappointed in the outcome of the election.
“I have a lot of friends who don’t have the privileges I have, and I wanted to prove this is something that I’m really going to fight for,” said Loss, a 2016 McFarland High School graduate. “Many people under this new administration feel that they aren’t being listened to … I knew regardless of (what group) I went out with, I was going.”
The McFarland UCC helped reaffirm her beliefs in equality, and she was proud to take part in the march with other members of the Wisconsin Conference.
Gorton knew she needed to attend the Women’s March as soon as she heard about it. Initially, the McFarland resident signed up to ride on a rally bus, but when the opportunity to travel with the Wisconsin Conference United Church of Christ was made available, Gorton chose to go with them for a two-day trip.
“There was a big-picture reason I wanted to go. One was for women’s rights in general and the conversations that had been going on during the election,” said the Chicago Theological Seminary student who serves at Madison’s Lake Edge United Church of Christ. “Just to be present and to listen and to witness it all and be a voice for justice … I needed to show up.”
Other reasons Gorton chose to attend included standing up for people who are disabled (she is a speech and language pathologist), hearing dialogue of sexual abuse and harassment, and advocating for environmental issues.
When the group arrived in the nation’s capital at about 7:15 a.m. Saturday, it met up with the First Congregational UCC based in Washington.
Due to the incredible size of the event, the members of the Wisconsin group didn’t find themselves marching all that much, because there was not a lot of space to move in the packed streets leading to the Capitol.
“One of the things that was really cool was sometimes you would go down a block and turn on to a new block and merge with another group of people marching. It was just this beautiful flow of people,” Gorton said. “You’d meet up with more people, and there would be a bigger crowd around the corner and the roar of the crowd would go up.”
Furthermore, she found the crowd very compassionate in helping others taking part in the rally and march.
“It was clear this was massive,” Gorton said.
Loss said the Wisconsin UCC group spent the majority of the march on a small portion of 7th Street, located between Independence Avenue and the National Mall.
“We stood there just trying to see the jumbotron and not being able to hear anything, and by the time the march was supposed to start, we were still going through speakers,” she said.
Gorton said in an attempt to get a better view of the march and rally, people were climbing trees and even portable restrooms.
Eventually, the National Parks Service and D.C. police let attendees on the mall, even though the group didn’t have a permit for its use.
By the time the march began, Pennsylvania Avenue, Constitution Avenue, Independence Avenue and the mall were saturated with people.
“I didn’t make it down to the White House, but that was an area of very high energy that was getting a little heated,” Loss said.
Another high energy, but heated area along the march was in front of Trump International Hotel.
“There was a lot of positive energy, it was very motivating energy for me,” Gorton said.
Both women mentioned the crowd in Washington was extremely diverse with representatives from various religions, creeds, cultures, ages, races, abilities and genders.
“The number of people was just astounding,” Loss said. “Just watching all of the people and reading all the signs, it was such a collective thing for such a diverse group of people and was really powerful … just to hear all the different voices was really cool.”
Gorton was thrilled to see the solidarity not just in Washington but across the globe. The first thing she saw on TV on Saturday morning was the Auckland, New Zealand, women’s march.
“We were marching in unity even though we were in different places and different time zones for different reasons,” Gorton said. “Yet, there was a solidarity there that was beautiful.”
The Wisconsin Conference United Church of Christ left for Washington in the early morning of Jan. 19. After a drive of 15-16 hours, the coach bus arrived at a hotel in Vienna, Va, at about midnight. The city is about one hour outside of the capital. On Friday, the group was hosted by Vienna’s Emmaus United Church of Christ to have interfaith conversations and prepare spiritually for Saturday’s march.
“That night ended with an interfaith service with about six different religions represented during the service,” Loss said.
The bus ride to Washington was initially a bit subdued, but the energy built as the day continued. Loss said the attendees discussed why they were attending the march and what they hoped to witness.
“Everyone had different ideas, but all had the willingness to listen to what happened on Saturday,” she said.
On the way home, there was residual energy about what the attendees participated in and witnessed.
“Just walking up the mall and knowing how many historic marches have taken place there was just an overwhelming feeling for me,” Loss said. “I can always say I was there — nobody will be able to take that away from me.”
Gorton plans to take what she learned during the women’s march and use it in her her future ministry work.
“People understood this was just the beginning. You heard people talking about what we would do next,” she said. “Those who felt their voices were repressed were able to get their voices heard. It was beautiful.”