"This is what democracy looks like."
That old chant, part of a call-and-response familiar to generations of activists, took on new resonance Saturday as thousands of people took to the streets of the French Quarter and CBD in a protest that was part of worldwide demonstrations against freshly inaugurated President Donald Trump.
The march stretched for blocks, winding its way from its starting point at Washington Square up Decatur Street to Poydras Street to eventually rendezvous at Duncan Plaza across from City Hall. So many attended that people were still arriving at the plaza as long as an hour after the march's head had reached its destination. Organizers estimated the crowd at 10,000 people.
[jump] For Saturday's event, organizers combined two initially planned protests, March for Revolution and the New Orleans satellite march for the Women's March on Washington, Women's March New Orleans. Speakers for the day, including State Rep. Helena Moreno, District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell and State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (head of the Louisiana Democratic Party) highlighted women's issues, including domestic violence, equal pay for women and reproductive rights; but the march as a whole seemed to speak for a variety of progressive causes: against racism, Islamophobia, economic injustice, homophobia, police brutality and racial profiling; and for access to health care, education, environmentalism, citizenship for undocumented workers and a $15 minimum wage. Many, if not most, of these causes are viewed by Democrats and progressives as being jeopardized by the new administration.
As participants marched, often being cheered - and, every once in a while, booed - by a large crowd of curious onlookers in restaurant doorways and on balconies, they chanted slogans ranging from campaign maxims ("Love trumps hate," a Hillary Clinton campaign chant) to issue-based demands ("Health and education; no mass incarceration"). They carried signs alluding to the women's movement of the 1960s, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, health care, the Trump-proposed wall on the Mexican border and more. Many people carried signs bearing some variant of the slogan "fuck fascism," a reference to what some academic observers see as a fascist bent to Trump's public remarks and proposed policies.
Above all, the march conveyed a sense of unity among disparate factions. Though progressive activists often struggle with infighting between internal constituencies - for example, lack of attention to racial issues and an explicitly pro-choice platform divided the Women's March on Washington - none of those divisions were on display Saturday, as speakers called on participants to take up causes beyond their own.
"We have to be inclusive. We have to be for everybody," Cantrell said. "Whatever darkness is in our world, in our state, in our city, it's only light that can drive out darkness."