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Hand Signals
Tevere MacFadyen
January, 2017

Last weekend, with my wife Lisa and our 13 year old son Sam, I joined the Boston Women’s March for America. Saturday morning dawned cold, wet and grey. We bundled up, packed water bottles and power bars, and carried our homemade sign to the subway near our home. The station was crowded and the platform was jammed. A genial transit policeman had locked open the gates and was waving people through. Nearly everyone, it seemed – men, women and children alike – was wearing a floppy-eared pink knitted hat.

When we surfaced at Park Street, the northeast corner of Boston Common, we were immediately immersed in a seething sea of pink hats, undulating banners and bobbing signs. Somewhere down the hill from us was a bank of loudspeakers, so we headed vaguely in that direction. People were packed tightly together all around us: women and girls of all ages, plenty of men, too, and lots of children and families. Chants rose up, faded in volume, then rose again. An occasional wave of upraised arms rippled through the crowd. A lone sausage vendor was doing brisk business.

It soon became clear that we were going to be doing more milling than marching. Organizers had initially planned for 25,000 people; but ultimately some 175,000 showed up. We moved like shoaling silversides, more or less at random, wherever the momentum of the group carried us. The sun came out and the mood was surprisingly buoyant, the cheerfulness of our fellow marchers counterbalancing the anger and defiance expressed on many of the signs. At one point, borne along on the human tide, we found ourselves absorbed into a group of deaf persons, a sudden quiet eddy amidst the tumult, animatedly and constantly signing to one another. Some of them were walking backwards so they could see, and when a new call and response began – “What does democracy look like?” “This is what democracy looks like!” – all of their hands shot up in unison, fingers fluttering in formation, a silent but emphatic signal of determination, and hope.