Originally published for The Sun Chronicle on Jan. 21, 2017.
BOSTON – More than half a million citizens turned out to D.C. for the Women’s March on Washington – a 2-mile stroll along the National Mall against the freshly inaugurated president Donald Trump. Thousands more took to a 1-mile path in New York City.
But for a group of area women, a sister march in Boston might as well have started 38 miles back in Attleboro.
“This is our freedom train!” Wendy McCarron of Attleboro yelled as an 8:53 a.m. commuter rail pulled into the Attleboro station Saturday, honking its horn at the hundreds of area residents ready to hop aboard.
By the time the train reached Mansfield and Sharon only standing room was left. But many joined regardless.
Tens of thousands of Massachusetts residents flocked to the Hub Saturday, joining together on the Boston Common for one of the hundreds of sister rallies held across the country. A rally in Providence was expected to draw 2,000 people, organizers said.
“To me this isn’t about the Trump presidency,” McCarron said. “This is about protecting our entitled rights. We as women, minorities, people of color, LGBTQ – all of us – we’re entitled to rights that cannot be jeopardized or taken away from us.
“This is for me and my three daughters. To make sure Washington knows I won’t tolerate any action taken against us.”
McCarron joined three friends and hundreds more area residents on a 50-minute ride into the city, filled with new chants and cheers as new passengers boarded at every stop and added many, many pink hats along the way.
“Do you know what this means?” McCarron, holding a “1920” sign, asked young passengers. “This is the year women earned the right to vote. We’re fighting today just like these women fought for us.”
The angst of marchers was echoed by high-profile speakers, including Democratic U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Attorney General Maura Healey. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Brookline, was also in attendance.
“We can whimper. We can whine. Or we can fight back!” screamed Warren to a crowd estimated by organizers to be as large as 175,000. “We come here to stand shoulder to shoulder to make clear: We are here! We will not be silent! We will not play dead! We will fight for what we believe in!
“We’re here because we’re ready to fight for what the people want and to build a country that works for all of us!”
By about 1 p.m. the speakers and performances had ended and marchers were well on their way around the Common, representing a variety of groups and causes with chants and posters along the 1-mile circuit.
Crowds were so large that two hours after the march began some were stuck still in their original spots at the beginning of the route. But most remained steadfast.
“It is so exciting to have my faith in others, and in the power of collective action, reaffirmed,” Claire Naughton of Foxboro, a veteran Democratic activist, said after the march. “The crowd was just packed together, with no way to turn, yet everyone was so nice. Not a cross word was spoken.”
For most, the event was a way for politicians and activists, men and women, children and adults alike to speak out, together.
“This is to make sure the new administration knows the issues and policies important to us,” Attleboro’s Beth Wampler said. “We need to make our voices heard and not just assume the government knows what’s best for us. We have to find a way to make the next four years work for all of us.”
“This has to be the beginning and not the end,” McCarron said. “We need to continue this. We can’t let this end today.”