Less than 48 hours after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, thousands of New Yorkers marched in solidarity on Jan. 21. Megan Sperry, a professor of Digital Media and Journalism at the State University of New York at New Paltz, attended the Women’s March in Albany. In an interview with The Legislative Gazette, Sperry talked about her experience at the Women’s March with her cousin. The photos below were shot by Sperry and provided exclusively to the Gazette.
“Obviously a lot of the pink hats, and stuff like that, were part of the initial push for the Women’s March. That was cool to see on a local level … how it trickled down. When they were originally organizing the Women’s March on Washington, somebody online released a pattern for people to create their own hats. It was great to see people wearing them in solidarity. All of these people are Planned Parenthood supporters. It’s a pretty mixed crowd. It’s not just women, it’s women and men, young and old. It’s not a specific demographic of people. It’s kids, teenagers, husbands, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends. It’s a good mix of people, and it shows you that it’s not just women being scorned by things that [Trump] said. These are the American people.”
Why did you attend the Women’s March?
“I know that people are really mesmerized by the idea of people going to DC, because that’s the nation’s capital, or going to the city, but we really need to raise visibility at home. Especially in Albany where legislation is passed, you know? So when I saw there was a march in Albany I was really excited.”
What were your initial thoughts when you got there?
“When we got there it was about 2 o’clock and they weren’t meeting until 4, so we had some time to walk around. We saw people also arriving early and parking and walking around with their signs. We didn’t know what to expect. The Facebook event said something like 1,000 – 1,400 people were going to be there. We weren’t there for a massive turnout, we were there only to be there. As we saw more people arriving and more people bringing signs it was getting really exciting. We walked around, went and got a coffee, walked by SUNY Central and talked about the importance of Albany.”
With the diversity that you saw, do you think the title “Women’s March” was an accurate title?
“That’s a good question. I think the purpose of the Women’s March was one, respect, and two, equality. There’s still proof that women are paid less than men; there’s still proof that men have more opportunities than women. I think this was a combination of the election and where we are in history. Those two things are intersecting, especially with what’s on the line now and what there is to lose, access to Planned Parenthood. ‘Most women use it for abortions’ — that’s one of the narratives that’s been created, and it’s not true. A lot of people use it for general health care, period. Those kinds of things pushed for the frame of the title, ‘Women’s March’ being created. The fact that it’s a very mixed crowd supports the idea that it’s not just women who think women should be treated equally. It’s the husbands, brothers and fathers of those women as well.”
Can you tell me what you saw and experienced in these photos?
“We didn’t know what to expect. People kept coming, and when we got over there there was maybe a couple hundred people already standing there. We were standing in the middle of all these people and the crowd kept growing and growing and growing, and then at like 4 o’clock I jumped up on a ledge, because this is right in front of the library, and I looked out and it was just a sea of people. I could not believe how many people were there, and I was totally impressed by the turnout. That totally exacerbated the energy that we were already feeling. It was cool because we were stuck in the middle of this crowd, and we were shoulder to shoulder with people with their signs. Then at 4 o’clock we started marching.”
“I love that this guy was wearing a yellow jacket. Here comes corporate fascism. That’s what’s happening. Trump is obviously a corporate person. Even though this country is built on capitalism, I feel like there should be a separation of capitalism and political motivation. That sign sums that up pretty clearly.”
“One of the first items that [Trump] started speaking to once he was inaugurated was getting rid of the EPA, and being anti-global warming. There’s numbers, there’s research. There are people that have been doing this kind of work for nearly 50 years. To come in and ignore to all of that work, energy and all these reports shows you his agenda and what’s important to him. What I like most about this group is they look like your neighbors, like everyday people. They don’t look like the far-right or the far-left. That was one of amazing things about the March in Albany. You saw people from all walks of life, even some conservative people.”
“’Stay woke.’ That’s a pretty trendy kind of saying. It doesn’t matter what your political affiliation is. It seems that both Democrats and Republicans are worried about this presidency and this election. This idea of being “awake” means “okay, I’m here. I’m showing up. I’m going to do the read and do the work. I’m going to inform myself.” I’m hoping that sign means that somebody wants to be involved.”
“No matter what level, [children] are being exposed to the election. Personally I think it’s great that they’re parents were like “hey, do you wanna go to this march?” I think getting them to be involved younger is better, because they can decide what they want to be a part of when they’re older. That’s the kind of parent I would be. I would take my kids to a protest, because they should understand that they don’t have to sit silently. They have a voice, and they should be able to exercise that voice.”
“These two pictures are older women. These two people are the ones you think of when you imagine a stereotypical ‘liberal.’ They’ve probably been protesting for over 40 years, and it’s great to see that they still have the energy to come out unjaded by anything. Juxtapose that with someone who looks like they’ve never been to a march or rally. That kind of spectrum was amazing.”
“These guys were so cute. They were standing next to us when we were waiting for the march to start. The boy was very shy, and there was another woman there with them who had a two-year-old. I was so happy to see them there. A lot of people would probably say, ‘Oh, I’m not going I have a baby in a stroller.’ Sometimes I feel like people will use any excuse to not do something, but it was great to see them there with their signs. I asked the little boy if I could take a picture of him, and he was really shy. Then his grandma said “She wants to take a picture of you. Hold up your sign!” Then he had this little smile on his face. I think he felt proud that I wanted to take a picture of him and his sign. Just to talk about the diversity aspect, most of the photos you’ve seen have a sea of white people. Post Women’s March, people talked about the lack of diversity. These movements are only going to have impact if everyone feels like they have a place.”
“And some signs were just very simple. Like why not? I am mad. We’re mad. Why don’t we just say it? We don’t have to contextualize it, and we don’t have to make it more philosophical than it is. Like, you’re mad.”
“I thought [this photo] was beautiful. I thought this encompassed the message of the Women’s March. These weren’t [just] women marching for women. These were families of women, husbands, fathers, these were sons, cousins, friends, whatever, marching together to help raise awareness and advocate for women. There’s the idea that if somebody is being ignorant they’re not being woke, and if a turtle goes into its shell its hiding. The turtle coming out of its shell is a symbol of it being aware, woke and not in hiding.”
“I think the major issue with the Republican/Democrat divide is the structure of the machine. I bet if you went around and talked to people of all backgrounds anywhere, and you asked what are the most important things to them you would find a majority of this country to be moderate. They just subscribe to the Republican or Democratic party because they’ve been told for so long that that’s what they have to do.”