Kriston Capps is a staff writer for CityLab covering housing, architecture, and politics. He previously worked as a senior editor for Architect magazine.
One day after an inauguration marred by violence, vast crowds of demonstrators convened in cities nationwide for the markedly more peaceful Women’s March.
Hundreds of thousands of women and their allies assembled in Washington, D.C., on Saturday for the Women’s March. Attendees chanted and sang, carried signs and banners, and said a great many rude things about President Donald Trump. People did the same thing in scores of “sister marches” in cities across the country—across the world. Their reasons for participating were as varied as the public squares where they assembled. They all had one thing in common, though, aside from an allergy to President Trump. In the largest Women’s March demonstrations nationwide, nobody got arrested.
No one was arrested in Seattle, where at least 120,000 people marched from Judkins Park to Seattle Center. No one was arrested in Chicago, where 250,000 demonstrators shut down parts of the Loop. No one was arrested in New York City, where 400,000 people took to Fifth Avenue to give President Trump what-for in his own hometown. No one was arrested in Los Angeles, site of the largest assembly in the country—750,000 demonstrators. And no one was arrested in the nation’s capital, where half a million joined together to affirm their rights and defy the president who had been inaugurated 24 hours earlier.
According to spokespersons in all of those police departments, the five assemblies drew more than 1 million demonstrators—quite possibly double that number—and landed zero of them in lock-up.
These cities weren’t isolated, either. The march in Austin, Texas, drew some 50,000 protesters—probably the biggest gathering in the city’s history, if not the state’s—and led to no arrests, according to a police spokesperson there.
In a few cities with large protests, namely Boston, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, police spokespersons didn’t immediately return phone calls. And with nearly 700 solidarity Women’s March events taking place on six continents, it’s impossible to guarantee that there wasn’t an arrest somewhere.
Yet D.C. seemed like a different city than it was the day before, when isolated bands of anti-Trump activists shattered storefront windows and torched a limousine during the inauguration; more that 200 arrests were reported, with several injuries among police and civilians. On Saturday, instead of firing tear gas and flash grenades, police officers were giving Women’s March participants directions. Only one other D.C. event in recent memory compares: President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration, which also saw huge crowds and no arrests.
For the organizers and attendees of the national Women’s March, this is an impressive feat. It’s hard to imagine 2 million people doing anything without someone getting arrested for something. Police deserve a lot of credit, too. Not only in D.C., where law enforcement has a lot of experience with public protest, but in all the cities and towns with sizable sister marches that aren’t often given over to mass demonstrations. Given the level of vitriol displayed on both sides of the nation’s political chasm recenly, the spectacle of millions of citizens engaged in a lawful and peaceful exercise of their rights served as a welcome respite from all the Nazi punching and bleak talk of “American carnage” that dominated the previous day’s events.
Some observers, however, disagreed.
What I personally witnessed Sat Jan21 in DC was a total collapse of the social order. It occurred one day after our side peacefully gathered pic.twitter.com/AfHn9nm2Eg— David A. Clarke, Jr. (@SheriffClarke) January 22, 2017