Crying is exhausting. But an emotional and sleepless 24 hours didn't stop approximately 5,000 New Yorkers from walking 45 blocks on a dark and rainy Wednesday night to make their point loud and clear: Donald Trump is not our president.
The crowd, which included New Yorkers of every age, gender, race, and background, started at Union Square and ended at Columbus Circle, taking the streets despite police barricades and in turn causing rush hour traffic to come to a standstill. At one point, protesters marched past a roof-less tour bus parked in the middle of Broadway.
"Tell this bus that this is what democracy looks like!" someone shouted. The crowd raised their fists and echoed: "This is what democracy looks like!" The tourists sitting on board in rain ponchos then turned their phones away from the Empire State Building and down towards the sea of people below, many of whom looked and felt like zombies, myself included, after the long night before watching Hillary Clinton lose the election she seemed sure to win. But New York's spirit, it seemed, was undying.
"I was completely depressed and miserable and felt like the world had come to an end," said 73-year-old Judy Berek, a native New Yorker and one of the founding members of the Coalition of Labor Union Women. "So I took the opportunity to come to a demonstration and stand with other people to say: The world is horrible right now, but it hasn’t come to an end. We’re going to be able to fight our way out of it and make a better life."
Berek came out with her friend and fellow CLUW founder, Betsy Wade, an 86-year-old former journalist. Together, they had seen their fair share of struggle. "We were little kids during the ‘50s during [Joe] McCarthy and red-baiting and my family suffered greatly," continued Berek. "And we got through it. And managed to improve our lives in this country as Jewish immigrants. And this is a huge step back, but at least we know to start fighting back the day it happened. We’re here."
Twenty-nine-year-old Nelini Stamp, one of the activists to work throughout the day to organize the rally, also looked back to her ancestors for inspiration.
"As an Afro-Latina woman living in this country, I knew that it’s been racist and based on white supremacy since it’s founding," she said. "The fact that we’re in a position where someone who actively said he was going to deport people and ban Muslims is the president of the United States is just a new low. But I thought back to my ancestors who survived slavery and a lot of other things and I’m holding on to that hope."
Even teenagers who weren't old enough to vote came straight from school to make their voices heard. Sixteen-year-olds Em Odesser and Lucy White, who write for their own fashion magazine called Teen Eye, found out about the march through Tavi Gevinson's Instagram and held up hand-made signs that read: "My pussy, my choice."
“School today was devastating," said White. "My AP U.S. History teacher was in tears and people kept having to leave class. It was so surreal. Not to be melodramatic, but my faith in humanity and the democratic process has been destroyed.”
Odesser tried to stay positive: “All the misogyny and bigotry has coalesced into this huge horrible thing and we want to say: We don’t condone this. We’re the next generation. And we’re going to be voting next time.”
To many there, marching felt cathartic, but with each impassioned "Trump is not my president" came the sobering acknowledgment that, in fact, he was. It was a reminder, too, that such demonstrations and expressions of speech rarely take place outside of the 21 states Clinton won on Tuesday night, especially out of the coastal liberal strongholds like New York and Berkeley that can sometimes feel like echo chambers, reverberating similar political views. Our shouts only echoed so many blocks.
"I’m going to work with my community but we also need to start speaking the language," said Stamp. "The white community also needs to get itself together and organize and understand why white working class communities are feeling what they’re feeling."
"There are people out there who feel like nobody has heard from them," Wade added. "We have to have a message that doesn’t completely condemn them, but says: This guy isn’t going to help you. We didn’t pay attention. We will now pay attention."
As for Odesser and White, whose demographic is arguably more hyper-connected than any preceding them, the future is about finding the right words both face-to-face and on social media.
“We were talking about Instagram captions today like, ‘What do we do?!" said Odesser. "Social media has been such a huge factor in this election. I had to do a presentation on it and I have a whole slideshow. It has its good and bad sides, but at least we can use our voices.”
Before giving her a goodbye hug and breaking away from the crowd to head home, I gave her my email and asked her to send me this slideshow. Even a Millenial has something to learn from the generation coming up.