Hundreds of thousands descended on Washington to participate in the largest presidential inauguration protest in U.S. history, but once the speeches are over, the posters are discarded and the pussyhats are put away, what do they do next?
For the women and men marching both in the nation’s capital and all around the world in the name of human rights and equality, once they return home do they plan to act on the beliefs that brought them there?
So, Washington Post reporters asked them: After today’s march, what actions do you plan to take to make a difference?
Here’s what they said:
Anita Tarzian, 54, a college professor from Baltimore, said Donald Trump’s election had already inspired her to be more engaged in politics. She plans to donate more money to candidates for the midterm elections.
Tarzian, who came to the event with two friends and her husband, said she has also signed up for daily updates from Creative Majority Pac, which offers suggestions for how to get involved in advocacy locally.
Her friend, teacher Maree Mitchell, 49, from Missoula, Mont., said she plans to make a difference in coming years by teaching her students how to identify fake news, a phenomenon that was widespread during the 2016 election.
— Josh Hicks
Jesse Cohen, 33, traveled with his wife from Litchfield, Conn to march with a group from Doctors For America because he said Trump’s plan to roll back the Affordable Care Act will be harmful to millions of Americans.
When he get home from the march he plans to speak out more often and more forcefully about the need for universal health care, he said.
“I have authority and legitimacy as a physician to talk about health care,” he said. “I want to work harder to make myself heard.”
— Michael Chandler
Barbara Willenson, a 74-year-old retired teacher, traveled from Milwaukee to DC for the March because she wanted to “show support for individuals who might feel alone or deserted after the election.”
Starting now, she said, she is planning to be on the look out for opportunities where she can be vocal on behalf of other people’s rights — by speaking up in public when she sees someone who feels threatened, or by calling a representative.
“If people in our society need more solidarity, I’ll be there for them,” Willenson said.
— Martine Powers
Mary Ratcliff had never voted before. She wasn’t raised in a political family and growing up in a small town in Ohio, Ratcliff didn’t think her voice mattered.
“I really felt like I couldn’t affect change or produce results,” said Ratcliff, a 30-year-old art student from Jacksonville, Fla. “Ignorance was bliss.”
That all changed during this election cycle when President Trump’s comments on a variety issues, including immigrants and global warming, inspired Ratcliff to get involved.
On Saturday morning, Ratcliff and her friend, 28-year-old Alexandra Freeman, arrived in Washington on 12-hour charter bus ride from St. Augustine, Fla., to participate in the Women’s March.
She was once someone who avoided the news, but Ratcliff said she followed the election throughout the year and plans to use her skills as an artist to express her views going forward.
“This will inspire my art,” Ratcliff said. “I think art is a great way to express yourself and shine light on those things that sometimes doesn’t get attention.”
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill freshmen Avery Horn, 18 and Bridget Killian, 19, said Donald Trump’s victory marked an “awakening” for them. Both are members of their local chapter of College Democrats and assumed Hillary Clinton’s victory in November was virtually assured.
They were wrong, and now they look back with some regret at their complacency.
Killian said she plans to look into an internship and volunteer work with Planned Parenthood, while Horn said she plans to start calling lawmakers when they are weighing actions she disagrees with, “to annoy them, so they listen to me.”
“You can’t just sit by and let someone else do the work,” Horn said.
— Moriah Balingit
Ever since emigrating to the United States from Trinidad and Tobago 16 years ago, Stacy Baez has felt the warm embrace of America, a country she believes has been welcoming to people of different cultures.
To Baez, the country represents diversity and innovation and she plans to become a citizen one day.
But recently, Baez has not been so sure that the America she knows is headed in the right direction.
“America is an amazing place to live,” Baez said while participating in Saturday’s Women’s March in Washington. “But I really feel like the election of [President] Trump is a step back.”
As a scientist, Baez, a 35-year-old Southeast Washington resident, is particularly concerned about climate change deniers in Trump’s cabinet and said that global warming is a serious issue facing countries like her native Trinidad and Tobago.
Baez decided over a month ago that she would participate in the march. Wearing a pink hat and holding a sign in her hand, she fit right in with the thousands of marchers walking by the U.S. Department of Education building. But she said she knows her work is just beginning.
Once she returns home she plans to write to Congress about the issues she’s passionate about, whether it’s climate change or immigrant rights.
“I plan to use the power of pen and paper,” Baez said.
Shelly Gargus, 50, came down with her husband and two friends from Brooklyn. They each wore a walkie-talkie in case of cell problems and came up with code names on the drive down (Gargus was “woodpecker.” Her husband, Jason Porter, 44, a novelist, went by “driftwood.” A friend was “Thundercat.”)
“I’m terrified of Trump and I’m offended by his treatment of women,” Gargus said.
Gargus said she was focusing her efforts on the diverse group of preschool children she teaches at Packer Collegiate school in Brooklyn.
“I’ve been teaching them activism,” she said of the 3- and 4-year-olds. Her students may not know what the Affordable Care Act is, “but they understand justice and what is fair.”
Gargus said many of her kids showed up to school upset the day after the election. “They were trying to understand their parents’ reactions. They would say ‘Trump is stupid’ or ‘Trump is crazy’ — things that they heard at home.
“Putting other people first is something I teach in my classroom. So one thing the kids do understand is that Trump is not fair, that he is doing things for himself. They understand that what they hear about Trump is not what we are teaching they should value in others.”
Gargus said she was trying to make a difference through her students.
“They love to feel they have some power, that their voices can be heard,” she said. “I’m imagining them as adults and hoping this will stick with them.”
— Michael E. Miller
With a service golden retriever, Fargo, by her side, U.S. Army veteran Khai Willson walked toward the marchers with a sign in her hand: “I served for better than this.”
Willson enlisted in the military shortly at the Twin Towers fell and served for more than a decade, mostly as a linguist. She suffered a brain injury that left her with post-traumatic stress disorder. She was reluctant to discuss how it had happened, afraid that the memories could trigger problems for her in such a large crowd.
Willson knows that, for three reasons, she is well positioned to influence Trump supporters who might be otherwise difficult to persuade: She’s white, middle class and a veteran.
“I have a lot of privilege,” said Willson, now a freelance copywriter. “I have to use that to engage with people.”
She feels responsible to have those conversations, in part because she knows how much easier they can be for her than the minority groups most in need.
“They don’t always have the in,” she said.
Willson has started to confront family members when she hears they make racist or derogatory remarks. She’s already noticed a change in some of them, particularly one uncle who is a diehard Trump supporter.
“Even he’s starting to come around,” she said.
–John Woodrow Cox
Mandy Keithan came to the Women’s March with her 16-month-old daughter, Eleanor, whom she named in part to honor Eleanor Roosevelt. Eleanor, who snoozed peacefully in a stroller amid the noise on the Mall, had her own infant-sized pink pussyhat.
Keithan, a 38-year-old trapeze instructor who lives in D.C., said she hopes the march inspires legions of women to become politically active.
“We are going to the march in order to get fired up and energized but how we create change is what we do afterwards,” she said.
For her and her husband, Rob Keithan, that means a sizable donation to Planned Parenthood this year and more involvement in their church, All Souls Unitarian Universalist, which is involved in social activism. Rob Keithan is involved in a teach-in at the church, where aspiring activists will learn how to organize.
Jennifer Giacalone, 52, said she has never attended a big rally or been particularly political until the president’s stunning victory. In the days that followed, the Charlottesville woman went to her local Democratic state lawmaker’s town hall about the results — her first such political meeting.
She wants to meet other local politicians and call their offices every week to air out her feelings on issues. She donated to Planned Parenthood and plans to send more.
“I realize if you say nothing you are letting the oppressor take over,” said Giacalone, a special education teaching assistant. “I’ve always been progressive but have never been vocal about I feel.”
For the moment on Saturday, the Rev. Brett Isernhagen had a job to do: standing in his clerical white collar, holding caution tape with other volunteers to help keep the enormous parade of marchers off the grass at 17th and Constitution.
After Saturday, he plans to keep going — working with a group that has assembled at the church where he is a pastor, Epiphany United Methodist in Vienna, Va., to focus on making the church more inclusive.
“A lot of the way the church makes people feel unwelcome is by not talking to or about them,” Isernhagen said. We need to make sure we’re talking about women’s rights. We need to make sure we’re talking about human sexuality. Sometimes these things don’t get talked about because the polite thing is just not to mention them. Starting those conversations in places they’re not otherwise being had is a good starting point, I think.”
Regina Burch and her 16-year-old daughter, Micaela, weren’t sure they would be able to come to the Women’s March Saturday. Attending would mean that Burch would have to navigate the formidable crowd in her wheelchair, and Micaela hadn’t been feeling well.
Both mother and daughter said they are determined to continue their activism long after the march. How do they plan to make a difference? They aren’t sure yet — but they believe they’ll find an answer by organizing with other like-minded Trump critics.
“Collectively, we can find the solutions,” Burch said. “I’ll work with the parent community at (Micaela’s) school, who want to figure out the next steps.”
Micaela clutched the handles of her mother’s wheelchair and nodded. “I want to attend more protests,” she said. “Now is the time to push back. How active we are is so important.”
Lindsey Heron, 40, a software saleswoman from Austin, volunteered to counsel women with unplanned pregnancies about their options. In Texas, where the legislature has blocked access to abortion, she said her mission is vital.
“The worst thing you can do is have a child that you can’t take care of,” she said, standing in a tent behind the stage.
A mother herself, Heron said her 8-year-old couldn’t understand why “the bad guy” won when Heron explained the outcome of the election.
“I’m not a super liberal feminist. I’m just a mom and this is what I care about,” she said.
— Jenna Portnoy
Also, yesterday we asked inauguration-goers about their hopes for their lives during Trump’s presidency. Read those responses here: