Hours after the streets of Washington had emptied of the masses of protesters taking part in Saturday’s women’s march, many of the marchers were back on their feet. This time, they were partying.
Celebrity DJ Samantha Ronson, who had earlier spun on the Mall, whipped up the dance floor at the Rise Up! celebration at the Hamilton, opening her set with a hip-hop tune whose chorus was “F— Donald Trump” before seguing into Janet Jackson’s “Nasty,” in honor of Trump’s famous insult of Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
“The White House press secretary says there’s no one here,” Sen. Al Franken told partygoers, riffing on the White House’s inflation of the attendance numbers at President Trump’s inauguration the day before. “So it should be easy to get a drink.”
Though he opened with a joke, the Minnesota Democrat’s message quickly turned serious — after all, this was the kind of crowd for whom a discourse on the confirmation hearings for education secretary made for good cocktail-party chitchat. “We have a lot of fighting to do,” he said, to cheers.
Attendees were mostly of the Dem/activist persuasion — the kind who would pony up $12,000 at a silent auction for two paintings made onstage by performance artist David Garibaldi, one of Rosie the Riveter and the other of Michelle Obama. They included Democratic operative Nathan Daschle, MoveOn Washington director Ben Wikler, Hip Hop Caucus CEO Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Agenda Project’s Erica Payne, Purpose’s Jenny Tolkan, political consultant Andrea Hailey and CleanChoice Energy’s Tom Matzzie.
Former White House political director David Simas, who now heads the Obama Foundation, was chatting with friends near the bar. He had traveled that day from Chicago, so he wasn’t able to march. “It’s extraordinary,” he said of the turnout. But how does it feel to watch the new administration threaten to undo initiatives he worked so hard on, such as the Affordable Care Act? On a night when many cast-out Democrats were feeling hopeful, Simas turns down the opportunity to mope: “It was never about us.”