Disclaimer: I rarely mention politics but today I am making an exception. My aim is not to persuade or change your mind but rather to share my experiences and perspective.
On January 21, Amsterdam held a Women’s March in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington. The march’s aim was to raise awareness and show support for women’s and minorities’ issues. I found out about the event a week before it happened (thanks to a friend’s post on social media) and debated joining the march. Would it do any good? Would anyone listen? The current political landscape is hateful, divisive, and exclusionary. None of those things help people or demonstrate compassion. I was raised to treat people with love and compassion whether or not I agreed with them. In the end I decided to march because I believe that everyone has a right to freedom, education, and safety. I believe people have a right to be heard and respected.
In the days leading up to the march, I read a bunch of articles covering intersectional issues. I thought long and hard about what to put on my sign. How could I show support everything I wanted to support and yet be clear and concise? (If you have ever tried to write a tweet about a complex issue you can appreciate the struggle.) I learned how to crochet so I could make a hat (yes, I read many articles for and against the pussyhat). To be honest it was less about the hat and more about learning a new skill but I digress.
On the day of the march Mike and I boarded a train to Amsterdam with hand painted signs. (No pussyhat since I hadn’t finished it.) While waiting for the tram, I met another expat and her daughter heading to the march. The woman felt frustrated with the recent election and had been disappointed she couldn’t attend the Women’s March on Washington. She was happily surprised that the Dutch were holding solidarity marches in Amsterdam and Den Haag.
The closer we got to Museumplein the more people we saw carrying signs, wearing pussyhats, or wearing political pins. I wasn’t sure how many people would attend but the crowd assembled in front of the Rijksmuseum exceeded my expectations. The area in front of the I AMsterdam sign was already shoulder to shoulder. Signs rose above the crowd proclaiming support for women’s rights, refugees, immigration, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQIA issues, Muslims, education, democratic freedom etc. (Some took advantage of the opportunity to protest a certain orange haired individual.)
We chanted “Equal rights are human rights” and “Black lives matter” etc. Some people had brought sheet music and sang “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “All You Need is Love.” We marched around Museumplein and ended in front of the US Consulate.
As an immigrant/expat in the Netherlands, it heartened me to see how many people (approximately 3000 according to police estimates) came out on a cold winter day to raise their voices in support of each other. Some people brought their families (including pets, the Dutch bring their dogs everywhere it seems). The individuals marching were as diverse as the issues. Most of the people I spoke to were expats from all over, including a Muslim refugee, but I also spoke a Dutch woman or two. Everyone I spoke to came out for different reasons. Some marched for themselves. Some marched for their children or family. Some marched for friends.
I had begun the week frustrated but after the march I felt at peace. I felt heard and no longer alone. If enough of us raise our voices we will be heard and we can change things for the better.