Well that was interesting.
About a week ago, I did a quick search and found out that Houston was hosting a Women’s March to run in parallel with the one in Washington. My wife and I decided to attend. She has a history of participating in protests in the past, but this was my first.
When I registered us, there were only about 2500 RSVPs. The number of attendees grew quickly in the week or so that followed.
We had elaborate plans. There was a restaurant in Houston that my wife wanted to have breakfast at, although it was a fair distance from where we needed to be for the march and rally. We decided to park centrally and figure out the public transit. As that grew more complicated, we decided to go to a place in the theater district we were familiar with. Forgetting that downtown Houston is a dead zone on Saturday mornings. Nothing was open, except for a McDonalds, so we settled for that. (A few blocks away, as we later discovered, there was an Einstein Bros. Bagels that we would have preferred. Alas.)
Everyone gathered at Jamail Skatepark at 10:45. There were a lot of people. A lot. Of all ages, genders, nationalities, etc. Kids in strollers. Gay Muslims. People even more senior than us. Even though it was a Women’s March, men were definitely welcomed and embraced. There were some very creative and funny signs, all of them correctly spelled with proper grammar and punctuation. Texas Congressman Al Green gave us our call to action and then we set out on the 15-minute march to Houston City Hall.
The route took us along the Interstate and overpassing some major thoroughfares. We got lots of honks of encouragement along the way and no animosity whatsoever. Spirits were high and there were lots of chants as we marched. At least one guy had a drum.
When we reached the Hermann Square in front of City Hall, the scope of the group became more apparent. The police estimate at least 20-22,000 people in attendance, likely the largest public gathering in the history of the city. The organizers spoke, as did members of city council and state representatives. The chief of police talked, as did Phyllis Frye, the first openly transgendered judge in the country. News choppers showed up and we received word that Mayor Turner was on his way to speak as well. Everyone issued a call to action, with most of the attention focused on 2018’s mid-term elections, although there are bills coming up in the Texas legislature that require public response as well. I’ve never been terribly politically active, beyond voting when I could, but the current environment has fired up a lot of people who’ve never been to a rally before. Hopefully this lasts…as long as necessary.
It was a fascinating experience. Fortunately, the weather cooperated, after a terribly rainy few days. It was overcast, so it was neither hot nor cold, and there was an occasional breeze, which made it all very tolerable. As with the other marches and rallies around the country (and the world—even in Antarctica!), it was orderly and peaceful. The police were congenial and many in the crowd thanked them for their service along the way.
As things started to wind down, we decided to grab lunch rather than deal with the congestion. By then the downtown had awakened and we had more options.
My first two book reviews of 2017 are up at Onyx Reviews: