No one expected the Women's March on Austin to be as successful as it was. I was the only man on three buses filled with women leaving Houston. These women were committed and said it does not end with the activity. Following is my experience with these fantastic women.
Women tell why they the trip to protest in Austin Texas
We started early on Saturday morning. These women were very well organized as we hit the road. As soon as we got in, I pulled a few women aside and asked them a few questions. Why were they here at the protest march in Austin? Did they believe that this was just a one-time event or one that will finally be effective in forcing the hands of politicians?
The answer to the latter was resounding. These women are going nowhere. They intend to stay organized both locally and nationally. Interestingly, they were not only interested in women-specific issues. It was about equal rights, social justice, and economic justice for all. They made it clear if one group's rights are abridged, all are.
50,000 bodies participated in the Women's March on Austin; much more than anyone believed would have attended. Interestingly, Houston, the city from whence we traveled, had over 22,000 participants.
The largest protest march in Austin Texas ever
NOW and Houston's ROADwomen organized the group that I rode with on Saturday. These women know about activism. The question is whether they can keep the activation they accomplished on Saturday moving forward every day. There is an important article by Micah White, the co-founder of Occupy Wall Street that every organizer, activist, and citizen must read. It is titled "Without a path from protest to power, the Women's March will end up like Occupy." Read the entire article, but the following snippet is probative.
Today’s social activists have succumbed to one of the most enduring myths of contemporary American protest: the comforting belief that if you can get enough people into the streets from diverse demographics, largely unified behind a clear message, then our representatives will be forced to heed the crowd’s wishes.
If this story has ever been true, and I’m not so sure it has, then it hasn’t been the case since 1963, when 250,000 people marched on Washington for “jobs and freedom” and heard Martin Luther King Jr deliver his I Have a Dream speech. Less than a year later, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex or national origin” in employment and housing.
But let’s be real: there are countless counter-examples of marches on Washington that failed: the 1913 march of women to demand the right to vote, the 1978 march for the Equal Rights Amendment, the 1986 Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament, the Million Man March of 1995, the 2004 March for Women’s Lives, the inauguration protests against George W Bush’s second term in 2005 … the list is practically endless. Activists have a tendency to ignore repeated failure in favor of overemphasizing one or two anomalous minor victories.
The absolute failure of the 15 February 2003 anti-war protest, the largest synchronized global march in human history, was the last gasp of this tactic. Today’s nominally democratic governments would be more concerned by the absence of our marches, as that might suggest something darker is in the works.
The only way to attain sovereignty – the supreme authority over the functioning of our government – is to use social protest to win elections or win wars. Either we can march to the ballot box or the battleground; there is no third option.
Heed the warning. We must stay engage. But we must also run and win with our grassroots progressive candidates. That is how the great success of this one day becomes a sustainable movement that empowers people to run their government in the interest of the grassroots.
Here are several dozen more pictures of the Women's March on Austin.