Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as the United States’ 45th president today, and hundreds of Charlottesvillians are heading to D.C., not to celebrate his inauguration but to protest it on Saturday at the Women’s March on Washington.
Cynthia Neff is organizing eight buses, and she estimates there are at least 25 buses leaving Charlottesville carrying around 1,500 people—a number that doesn’t include locals who are driving up or taking the train.
Neff’s eight buses were paid for by three local women and those rides are free. “We wanted to open it up to people who might otherwise not be able to afford to go,” she says. Demand for the 426 seats has been high, and Neff has a waiting list. “It’s been like herding cats,” she says.
The buses will roll out from the Albemarle County Office Building at 6am and park at RFK Stadium. From there, Neff has purchased Metro passes to hand out to riders to get to the Mall, where the program begins at 10am near the U.S. Capitol, with a march to the Ellipse at 1:15pm. She hopes to have all of her riders back at the buses to head home at 6:30pm.
Organizers of the march have a permit for 200,000, but D.C. officials are planning for as many as 500,000, according to WTOP. Neff anticipates there may not be cell phone coverage once in Washington, so she’s had signs made that say “Charlottesville Women’s March on Washington” to help participants find each other.
Protesters are being advised that no sticks or backpacks are allowed on the Mall, and some are seeking out clear totes. Neff was headed to Costco Thursday to stock up on power bars so no one starves if the food trucks are difficult to access.
Neff says Rally, an organization that provides transportation to events, has 10 buses that will be leaving from Charlottesville, as well as buses from Staunton, Afton and Waynesboro.
And other locals have buses. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church has two buses carrying 110 people, according to Christina Rivera. The Unitarian Universalist church has a social justice arm called Standing on the Side of Love, and some of the riders will be wearing those T-shirts and carrying banners with that message, says Rivera.
Julie Christopher started out thinking a small van would work and ended up renting a bus that holds 32.
Like many of those going, Christopher was disturbed at the tone of the election and wanted to celebrate this country’s diversity. “Women and minorities in particular were talked about in degrading and humiliating ways,” she says.
Florence Buchholz has 47 people signed up for her bus, which filled up in 24 hours. “After the election, I was very unhappy,” she says. “I felt undervalued as a woman. The next day I rented a bus.”
She says she’ll be taking a lot of people who have never gone to Washington to protest before. And they’ll be wearing pink pussycat hats.
For some people like Gail Hyder Wiley, mobility is an issue that made a march in Washington difficult, and she wanted to do something to help those participate who couldn’t go. At IX Art Park, where her rally to support the women’s march will take place, she was put in touch with collaborator Jill Williams, who had an idea to reach out to middle and high school students.
The multi-faceted event from 9am to 1pm tomorrow has speakers—UVA Women’s Center’s Claire Kaplan will talk about active bystander intervention—and music, including the Love Army Ukulele Brigade.
“There was a real incentive to me to do a rally, to do something more than a protest,” says Wiley. “This is not a protest event.”
And the community response has been “breathtaking,” she says. “It’s an amazing experience to see Charlottesville turn out in all its glory.”