Many of the women participating in A Day Without a Woman events in NYC might share the feelings of Rachel Cohen about current events.
“I’ve been at pretty much every event since the election,” said Cohen, 33, holding a small cardboard sign near Central Park referencing Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood, and Love Trumps Hate.
She had been to spontaneous protests against President Donald Trump around NYC, and — like many who turned out for Wednesday’s rallies — the Women’s March.
That march and its attempt to build a lasting political force was a challenge much in the mind of demonstrators Wednesday. While the inaugural protest took place on a weekend, the International Women’s Day strike required more from many of its participants — wear red and shop mindfully, organizers said, if that’s the best you can do, but take to the streets and step out of work for those who can.
That’s difficult for someone like Cohen, who is an independent contractor and was planning to head back to her job as an educator at the Museum of Modern Art after the event. Skipping days entirely would mean missing rent, she said.
But she wanted to do something — one of many women (and men) searching for new and old means of political engagement in the Trump era. They wanted to continue the hard work of opposition, difficult to sustain.
Turning up the pressure
For many of the women marching, chanting, striking, or protesting around NYC on Wednesday, disrupting the workweek was a crucial example of that engagement.
Protesters offered other examples. Some were closely following the scheduled actions promoted by the Women’s March organizers.
Others pointed to groups like Rise & Resist, which has organized disruptions around the city since Trump’s election.
And many spoke of making calls to elected officials, not once but many times, not once a month but once a week — so often perhaps that the calls might not even be getting through. Marchers reported busy signals, full mailboxes.
Sarah Feightner, 36 — on strike from her publishing job and carrying a poster of Chimamanda Adichie’s book cover for “We Should All Be Feminists” — said she had delivered letters to Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand’s offices along with a MoveOn.org group.
Some women looked for solutions outside of politics. Katherine Rochmat, 40, said of course she had voted, and she and members of her pathogen lab at Columbia walked off the job for the strike. But part of her reaction to the election was to try to “be welcoming and open to people of all cultures and races,” to live a tolerant and positive life.
“You can’t have a protest like this every day.”
There were other protests around New York Wednesday — outside Trump’s properties midday, in Washington Square Park in the evening and some wandering the streets. A financial firm commissioned a statue of a persisting young girl now facing the famous Wall Street bull. That drew applause, pictures, tweets, and frenzied discussion about whether it was really radical if it was the capitalists making this nice statement about women missing from the boardroom.
In for the long haul
All of it together made up a striking example of unrelenting protest nearly two months after Trump’s inauguration. Trump has provided plenty of reasons for these crowds to protest, and though the numbers didn’t equal those of the Women’s March, people are still regularly organizing and taking to the streets.
Of course, Trump didn’t spontaneously combust in the face of the strike and protests. That’s the test facing protesters who will have to keep trying to convince even a segment of the Women’s March attendees to come out again, and again, and again over the next four years. Wednesday’s strike was less a knockout punch to Trump’s agenda than another protest in a string of them, part of an evolving and complicated search for popular reaction to an unprecedented president.
Rochmat, the lab worker, said, “I wish we could just hit him in his wallet.” Leaning over a police barricade across from the Trump International Hotel and Tower by Columbus Circle, she and others had been trying to convince visitors to not check in.
Was it working? Not yet, she said.
Soon Rochmat was one of the only ones left leaning over the barricade. By 2:30, that part of the street was empty, as the women moved on to other places of protest or work or home.
From time to time people on the upper floors of Trump’s hotel would peak through the white curtains to take a furtive cell-phone picture, or just observe the dwindling crowd.