This is What Democracy Looks Like

This is What Democracy Looks Like
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<p>The poster I designed for The Women’s March on Washington</p>

The poster I designed for The Women’s March on Washington

Mary Anne Erickson

One of the most powerful chants from last Saturday’s “Women’s March on Washington” was a call and response: “Tell me what democracy looks like”? This is what democracy looks like”. We first heard it echoing from a large group near the escalators, as we were inching our way toward the exit of the Metro along with the enormous pink-hatted crowd. I’m not sure I had given a lot of thought to the need to uphold our democracy before the election results came in on November 9th. But from that moment on, I knew I would join the march in Washington adding my voice to the call to uphold our cherished American values.

Our group of friends traveled from Woodstock, New York and were grateful to stay in D.C. with a special cousin who was kind enough to take us in. Much more fun to the experience the march with family rather than fight for an overpriced hotel room! We met a number of people at the march who had similar stories.

I had spent the last week knitting pink “pussy” hats for our team and also created a poster for the event. After much soul searching about what I wanted my sign to say, I saw the kickstarter campaign featuring Shephard Fairey’s “We the People” images and got my inspiration: the first line of the Constitution would be my theme. I’m passionate about upholding the right of equality for all people, so I included the Statue of Liberty holding up the world: Equality for everyone in the world! Bingo!

<p>Screen shot from CNN 1-21-17</p>

Screen shot from CNN 1-21-17

Mary Anne Erickson

The pink hats became an instant recognition among people on the street that we were in solidarity with each other. Starting with our car ride from the Hudson Valley to D.C. people were honking along side us with thumbs up and fist pumps! The Metro ride the morning of the march gave us all an opportunity to experience the utmost trust in strangers. As we were packed tighter together than any NYC subway ride of my life, we swapped stories, laughed and some groups broke into song and chanting. I posted on Facebook, “The Metro is a sea of pink hats”! The closer we got to our final destination, several ladies from Minneapolis asked if they could tag along with us and we said “sure”! Thus a new friendship was born. Amanda and Cynthia were our marching buddies the rest of the day.

The energy on the street as we emerged from the Metro was electric. As we got closer to the Mall the size of the crowd grew by leaps and bounds and you could hear distant roars which added to the excitement. Banks of porto-potties set boundary lines at various locations (which sadly later in the day proved to be inadequate.) The Mall itself is a spectacle to behold with The Capitol Building at one end and The Washington Monument at the other. I felt a special pride to stand on the same ground as so many who have shared this space over the years. There were some very large displays here: a “We the People” sign accompanied by a giant scroll (maybe 50 feet long) on the ground for people to sign. Nearby there was a huge earth sculpture with a sign in front that said “We are all in this together”. What a perfect place for our team photo with The Capitol building in the background.

Mary Anne Erickson

We wanted to get closer to the “action” as we had heard there were speakers and a stage set up that couldn’t be seen from the Mall, so we wandered in that direction. The energy of the crowd was upbeat and joyous with a sense of supportiveness I have never experienced before in such a large group. We squeezed and squeezed between people toward the stage area until we could not move. We stayed here for a short while until it became too much.

Although I didn’t really have to pee, I decided to be pro-active and wait in the insanely long line for the porto-potties. After 30 minutes of moving 10 feet (out of about 60 feet to the goal) my friends came along and suggested we try the art museum across the street. Sounded like a better plan until we got there and realized many others had the same thought! As we got closer to the entrance we heard the news that they weren’t letting anyone in with signs. “Argh! No way I’m letting this sign go!”

We decided to try the News Museum a few blocks away assuming it might be less crowded since they charge an entrance fee. Throngs of people in all directions continued to buoy our spirits as we meandered in that direction. We had to leave our signs outside here also, but we tucked them out of sight behind a trash bin to avoid theft, then entered through metal detectors after emptying all our pockets. Once inside, the $25 ticket was too high just to use the bathrooms, so we fetched our signs, gazed out at the distance we had just crossed and decided not to go back that way.

Since there were so many people marching on Constitution Avenue right in front of us, we agreed to jump in and join them! In the process we saw a restaurant on the corner and the pit stop idea resurfaced. The nice man at the entrance told us they were booked solid, but I worked up the courage to politely ask if we could use their restroom? And he said “yes”! Whoo hoo!

There were two bathrooms and both had lines with about 10-12 ladies waiting. “One of ‘em just has one stall and two urinals” someone yelled out. “You’re better off going to the other one”. Just about then, a young man timidly walked up to the door (I just realized at that point we were all in the men’s room)! He turned and quickly ran out. An older man started to walk our way and then jokingly said “OK ladies - you win - no men’s room today!” We told him he was welcome to wait his turn in line, but he smiled and walked back out!

Mary Anne Erickson

We were refreshed and ready to march, taking in the whole spectacle of this enormous crowd parading along one of Washington’s most beautiful streets with the architectural masterpieces befitting the Nation’s Capitol: The Federal Reserve, The National Academy of Sciences, The American History Museum, and The National Gallery. Signs thrust in the air sparkled despite the grayness of the day and the intermittent drizzle that descended. Our happiness could not be dampened as our hearts were full of the hope that comes from this kind of collective unity.

Mary Anne Erickson

I came away from The Women’s March on Washington moved in ways I did not know possible. People of both genders, of all ages and races had come together to express their concern about the future of our country and our planet. The next morning I saw the New York Times article with photographs of the marches around the US and the world, including Antartica! For me the big take away is “Love Trumps Hate” and that “we the people” will not stand by and let anyone turn back the clock on the progress we’ve made for human rights and freedom. “We the people” have put our new administration on alert that we will not stand by, we will stand up and fight for peace. We have spoken.

Enjoy this photo gallery of some of my favorite signs from the extraordinary Women’s March on Washington.

Mary Anne Erickson

Mary Anne Erickson is an artist, photographer, and author who has been documenting the demise of the American roadside culture for over 35 years. Her work can be seen at She also blogs about great food and entertaining ideas at

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