Like the juggernaut hit “La La Land,” the Women’s March Los Angeles revealed a sparkling city of stars. An estimated 750,000 participants showed up to demonstrate solidarity and celebrate human rights. The record-shattering attendance made the L.A. March the biggest of them all.
Friday’s heavy rainstorm dusted off palm trees, hosed down sidewalks and power-washed skyscrapers. By Saturday, the sun shone bright - filtering through palm fronds and glinting off travertine and glass. LA.’s public transit renaissance brought hordes of marchers in on Metro Rail’s new Expo Line that runs east from Santa Monica and the various lines that funnel from Los Angeles County’s infamous sprawl into Downtown.
Accompanied by my sister and cousin, I took my maiden voyage on the Expo Line from its westernmost station in Downtown Santa Monica. We never imagined the sea of West L.A. humanity that joined us on the platform. With patience and grace, the crowd squashed in as many people as the rail cars could carry. This still left many behind. Some waited two hours to catch a train.
We arrived downtown at 9:30 a.m. to discover streets choked with people. The gathering spread around Pershing Square like a huge amoeba punctuated by hand-knitted, hot-pink pussy hats and homemade placards. We had planned to meet up with my 21-year-old daughter and her friends, who came west from Claremont; and our aunt and uncle who came north from Fullerton. Alas, the overwhelming turnout and cellular service overload made it impossible for us to find each other.
We couldn’t make it to City Hall, so we missed the political speeches. We also missed out on the celebrity stuff: Miley Cyrus promoting her Happy Hippie Foundation; Barbra Streisand psychoanalytically dissecting Donald Trump; pregnant Natalie Portman saying, “From the bottom of both hearts beating inside my miraculous female body, I want to thank our new president. You just started the revolution”; Soviet Jewish émigré singer/songwriter Regina Spektor performing a moving rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin In the Wind”; and James Franco hugging it out with Jane Fonda. But there’s always YouTube…
The most apt handmade sign read, “You’re so vain, you probably think this march is about you!” The March was about so much more than protesting our new President - it exuded unity, peace (no arrests were made) and good vibrations. A trumpet player from somewhere on Olive Street played “This Land is Your Land” and “God Bless America” and everyone sang along. No one pushed or shoved.
On the train back home, I met Andrew Shusterman, an effusive 33-year-old social media marketer from Orange, who looked like a tattooed Tevye. He proudly showed me the poster he’d made - “My wife is working at Planned Parenthood right now.” When I asked Shusterman why he came, he said, “Because my wife couldn’t. I wanted to show my support for her and all the women in my life. I didn’t want to make it all about Trump.” He told me participating in the March reenergized and uplifted him.
After I finally made it home, I scrolled through Facebook and found a picture of my 21-year-old daughter at the March holding a placard high over her head. It displayed these words from Hillary Clinton’s concession speech, “To all the little girls watching, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world.” I got choked up, sad that I’d missed seeing her. So I called her up. “It was such an awesome day. People were so supportive of each other,” she said. When I asked her why she’d chosen the words she did for her sign she said, “I wanted to go positive.”
Being part of a historical gathering bigger than anyone’s wildest dream in my beloved birthplace, meeting a compassionate male feminist like Shusterman and hearing my daughter’s empowered joy left me feeling much more positive than negative. And that’s why we march. Onward!
Sharon Rosen Leib is an award-winning columnist and contributing writer for the San Diego Jewish Journal. Her work has been featured on NPR and in Jewish publications throughout California.