WASHINGTON — The day after 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump was officially sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, half a million protesters, including representatives from many student groups from Penn, descended on Washington, D.C. to attend the .
The Washington Post reported that the number of people using the metro to get into the city to march was than it was for Friday’s inauguration.
By 1:30 p.m., the streets of Washington were thronged with protesters bearing signs supporting not only women’s rights, but also other movements ranging from Black Lives Matter to environmentalism and animal rights. Other signs condemned Trump specifically with messages like “Women Are the Wall and Trump Will Pay,” and “My Rights Aren’t Up For Grabs”.
Trump’s conservative platform and cabinet picks have sparked concern among progressives, while a video revealing his boasts about sexually assaulting women enraged people across the political spectrum.
Penn students, who have throughout his unprecedented rise to power, flocked to the march in large numbers. Penn Democrats organized a large group of protesters, and Penn Hillel and the Muslim Student Association organized an to D.C. Feminist art collective , which advocates against rape culture, also attended the march.
Penn Democrats organized a group of 42 students to travel to the inauguration. Members made protest signs the night before to advocate causes they cared about, from women’s rights to environmentalism to outright condemnation of Trump and his ties with Russia.
“It was insane, it was exhilarating — I loved it,” said Wharton freshman Dylan Milligan, political director of Penn Democrats. “I did not expect 500,000 people to show up to this.”
The group made it all the way to the White House, where they even caught a glimpse of the man they were protesting.
“The presidential motorcade drove by, and it was Trump, and we all booed loudly, and it was very fun,” Milligan said.
“At the end of the day I felt that it was really important for there to be a Penn presence at the march given our relationship to the president,” said College senior Gavi Reiter , who is the former co-chair of the Student Sustainability Association at Penn. “There were a a lot of old alums that came up to me and would be like ‘I went to Penn too, crazy that this is happening,’ so it definitely brought attention to the question of Trump attending our university today.”
Reiter said that although the unexpectedly large size of the crowd made an organized march difficult, the confusion did not detract from the experience.
“It was really amazing because people we had the whole city taken over by just a mass physical movement of people,” Reiter said. “Even when I thought I was done with the march and was going to walk back after like four hours it still felt like a march because of the sea of people.”
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College senior Anna Rosenfeld was another student who attended the march. Rosenfeld is the co-executive chair of OWN IT UPenn, a women’s leadership summit that will take place in March. She also interned for Secretary Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign last semester, and said she felt particularly “devastated” about Trump’s election.
Rosenfeld said that although she initially felt apprehensive about attending the march the day after the inauguration that drew Trump supporters to the nation’s capitol, she found the event “incredibly peaceful.”
“It was perfect. It was amazing to see this display of women coming together from all over the country and the world,” she said. “I really didn’t see even any police around. Everyone was really respectful.”
Senior Jewish educator and campus rabbi at Penn Hillel, Ilana Schachter echoed these sentiments.
“It really felt like complete strangers were being supportive and excited to be there with us, that that we were all there together as one, which I think is pretty remarkable for the size and scope of the march,” Schachter said. “Just everywhere that you turned you were greeted by people who wanted to talk with you and connect with you.”
Schachter traveled to the march on the interfaith bus organized by Penn’s Muslim Students Association and Hillel. After attending a Reform Jewish prayer service at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Capitol Hill, the religious groups from Penn headed out to join the march.
“We knew that we couldn’t just stand on the sidelines,” said Nursing sophomore and board member of MSA, Du’Aa Moharram . “Our creed and our religion and our scripture teach us to stand up for the oppressed, stand up for the victims, and not let a tyrant rule untouched.”
Moharram, and many other Muslim students at Penn, felt threatened by Trump’s rhetoric throughout the campaign, including his promise to impose a ban on Muslim immigration. But attending the march gave them hope.
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“It really felt revolutionary,” she said. “Looking around you, it really felt like the people were in a revolt, like we weren’t just going to lie down and take this.”
This is not the first time Penn students have participated in protests against Trump. Immediately following his victory, students held a solidarity march through campus. And after freshman students of color were targeted with racist GroupMe messages that referenced Trump, students, faculty and staff organized multiple walkouts and protests.
Despite reports that the crowd could not march on account of being too large, the Washington Post reported that by 2:40 p.m. one of the organizers directed the masses to an .
One particular moment that stood out to Rosenfeld was when the women’s chant of “my body, my choice,” was responded to by the men in attendance with “their bodies, their choice.”
“It was just so cool and so powerful to see that women aren’t fighting alone,” she said. “I think that if you’re not scared and you’re not paying attention, you should be now.”
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