BUENOS AIRES – On Saturday, January 21, 2017 people from all corners of the planet gathered at hundreds of locations around the world (673 to be exact) to march in solidarity with the “Women’s March on Washington.” The main march occurred in Washington D.C., U.S.

The idea behind the march began in response to the U.S. election results in November, 2016 that named Donald Trump President-Elect. While the “Women’s March on Washington” was inspired by Trump’s election, it is not fundamentally about opposing Donald Trump, but rather is based on the “Unity Principles.” With emphasis on equality for all, the “Women’s March on Washington” drew several million people in locations across all seven continents including Antarctica.

In Buenos Aires, Argentina at least 20 Minerva students from the class of 2019 attended the “Marcha Solidaria de Mujeres: Edición Buenos Aires” which took place from 11:00-14:00 UTC-03:00 in front of the U.S. Embassy at Plaza Intendente Sebeer, Argentina and drew roughly 80-100 attendees.

The event was coordinated via Facebook by Rosalia Lloréns and included a crowd of Argentinians, South Americans, expats, exchange students, and immigrants (both from the U.S. to Argentina and vice versa), as well as representatives from various organizations. Attendees brought signs with statements including “Los Derechos de Mujeres Son Derechos de Humanos” (“The Rights of Women are Human Rights”), “Girls Just Want to Have Fun-Damental Rights,” and “Love Trumps Hate,” among others.

One attendee, Samantha, came from Austin, Texas and is traveling around the world for work throughout 2017. When asked what she was marching for, Samantha said, “I am marching against bullies, against not valuing words enough to use them well, and I’m marching against not standing up for the other. I’m marching for the other, minorities, and marginalized people, LGBT communities, immigrants…they–we–need each other.”

Samantha also shared what she hopes will come out of the marches occurring around the world and said,”The big hope is that somehow Trump doesn’t stay President for long. That probably isn’t possible, but the other hope is … ‘bridges not walls’, national endowment to arts, women’s rights, stopping violence against women…that these things are actually heard by the conservative government and not brushed off. We want to be heard and feel that we are safe and protected by our government as we should be. And we’ll be noisy if we aren’t. Historically, I don’t know how much difference it makes. There were a ton of Vietnam protests and I don’t how much difference it made. At the very least we don’t feel as alone.”

While Samantha and the crowd of attendees gathered under the shade of a tree in the plaza, 23 Argentinian law enforcement officials stood by in front of the U.S. embassy. Of the 23 enforcement officials, 14 (all female) were equipped in full riot gear. No interaction, beyond scarce friendly conversation, between police force and protesters was witnessed throughout the duration of the official march.

While the police were formally there to protect the embassy, one man who has lived in Argentina for 21 years and who later spoke at the event emphasized, “Don’t resent the presence of the police, be grateful for the protection of the police” in an attempt to remind people to always be observing who is on your side. The same man also spoke to why he was at the protest, saying, “I detest Donald Trump, but I am not here because I resent Donald Trump. I am here because I am for the rights of women.”

Argentinian Law Enforcement standing guard by the U.S. Embassy while the "Marcha Solidaria de Mujeres: Edición Buenos Aires" took place under the trees nearby. Image by Gabriella Grahek, Minerva Class of 2019.

Argentinian Law Enforcement standing guard by the U.S. Embassy.

Lloréns, the coordinator, used the stump of a tree as an improvised platform starting at 13:00, from which she shared the “Unity Principles” (in English and Spanish) that guided the “Women’s March on Washington” and was the guide for the event in Buenos Aires as well as the hundreds of other protest locations around the world. After sharing the guiding principles, Lloréns offered the stump for others in the crowd to speak in any language and share their feelings, ideas for action, and information about the organizations that they represent.

An attendee using the tree stump as a platform to share information about an organization while the crowd listens and cheers. Image by Gabriella Grahek, Minerva Class of 2019.

An attendee using the tree stump as a platform to share information about an organization while the crowd listens and cheers.

Over the next hour numerous individuals took the opportunity to share. The speeches from the stump ranged from informative (representatives from organizations like Pregnant Then Screwed), to personal (fights against workplace sexual harassment and objectification), to calls for action (reminders of the#grabyourwallet campaign and the many ways to vote beyond the ballot). All who shared spoke in a tone to inspire the attendees to take action not only on January 21, 2017, but every day until human equality is achieved.

Rianne Vogels spoke about workplace harassment and her story can be read by clicking on the photo. Sign says "Pussy Grabs Back: We Will No Longer Hold Your Secrets In Our Feminine Pockets". Image by Bethany Jana, Minerva Class of 2019.

Sign says “Pussy Grabs Back: We Will No Longer Hold Your Secrets In Our Feminine Pockets”.

The first attendee to take the stump was Laura Sofia Castro, a Minerva Class of 2019 student studying in Buenos Aires for the 2017 spring semester. Laura shared a poem she had written that encompassed the experiences of objectification she, and many women, face on a regular basis.

When asked to summarize the main message of her poem, Castro says, “Cat calling or verbal sexual harassment on the streets is a power move. As a woman, it leaves you without an option. Given the nature of it, it is clearly not a flattering or even flirtatious action. It is diminishing. Defending yourself might compromise your safety and ignoring it signifies allowing it to keep happening. Even just thinking about it generates anxiety and makes the perpetrator win. These events that might seem insignificant are the basis for sexism in our society and clearly exemplify the patriarchal environment we have to fight against daily.”

Castro’s full poem can be found here.

Castro also shared what drew her to the protest in Buenos Aires, and said, “I feel the need to express my disappointment towards the state of world politics and how someone who expresses clearly sexist and diminishing views came to have such a position of power, which normalizes and justifies violence against women, as well as my willingness to fight back in any way I can.”

Minerva Class of 2019 student Laura Sofia Castro wrote her message "Sorry for the Inconvenience - They're Killing Us" on her body. Image by Bethany Jana, Minerva Class of 2019.

Minerva Class of 2019 student Laura Sofia Castro wrote her message “Sorry for the Inconvenience – They’re Killing Us” on her body.

Other Minerva students who attended brought signs stating “Build Bridges Not Walls” and “Spread Love” while some even used sharpies to write fierce statements on their bodies such as “Still Nasty,” “Disculpen Las Molestias – Nos Estan Matando” (“Sorry for the Inconvenience – They’re Killing Us”) and “My Body – Not Yours”.

Minerva Class of 2019 Student Lusana Ornelas. Image by Bethany Jana, Minerva Class of 2019.

Minerva Class of 2019 Student Lusana Ornelas.

Poster stating "Spread Love" held by Minerva Class of 2019 student Margot Van der Sande. Image by Alisha Fredriksson, Minerva Class of 2019.

Poster stating “Spread Love” held by Minerva Class of 2019 student Margot Van der Sande.

Minerva Class of 2019 Students Corey Orndorff and Natalie Kanter pose in Buenos Aires, Argentina in front of the police in riot gear with the phrase "Still Nasty" written on their bodies. Image by Natalie Kanter, Minerva Class of 2019.

Minerva Class of 2019 Students Corey Orndorff and Natalie Kanter pose in Buenos Aires.

Zoey Haar, another student from the Minerva Class of 2019 wrote the word “Mine” across her exposed stomach and “Also Mine” across her exposed chest. When asked what inspired the phrasing, Haar says, “When I wrote the message on my body I was thinking specifically of women’s health and reproductive rights in the U.S., but I think it can be interpreted in many valid ways. It’s my body, and I make the rules about what I wear, how I use it, how I care for it, and how I write on it.”

Haar was drawn to today’s protest because, as she says, “This movement has resonated around the globe because it has such an important message of love and respect for all people. The movement is powerful, proud, and good, and I knew that in joining women around the world we would be taking part in history.”

Minerva Class of 2019 Student Zoey Haar. Image by Gabriella Grahek, Minerva Class of 2019.

Minerva Class of 2019 Student Zoey Haar.

Another attendee, Maria Gomez Bustillo, is a 20 year old female originally from Buenos Aires who has moved back and forth from the United States and is now at university in Buenos Aires. As such, Bustillo has had a cross-cultural childhood and education. When asked if she plans to make any changes in her life beyond attending protests, Bustillo says, “I am surrounded by people who are unfortunately very ignorant about issues all women face. So I want to be braver in speaking out when they say things that are hurtful and damaging, I think if I can speak with my friend group and spread this message, that will bring change.”

Maria Gomez Bustillo, wearing shirt with the phrase "Girl Gang". Image by Gabriella Grahek, Minerva Class of 2019.

Maria Gomez Bustillo, wearing shirt with the phrase “Girl Gang”.

The attendees were of all ages, many countries, and inspired to march in solidarity with the “Women’s March on Washington” for many reasons. After numerous speeches, lots of clapping, shouting, and inspiration, Rosalia Lloréns ended the formal event at 14:00 and the crowd dissipated entirely by about 14:30. The female law enforcement dressed in riot gear were left as they were, standing undisturbed, just as they were at the start of the event three hours prior, marking the successful completion of a peaceful protest.

While the formal event ended, the perhaps most important question remains: what occurs after the protest?

Castro spoke to the benefit of the experience and says, “Today’s rally allowed me to make meaningful connections in Buenos Aires with activists groups that are out on the streets, doing groundwork to make our society progress. I intend to join them and put my energy and efforts into helping advance this movement and helping in any way possible. This is what I want to dedicate my life to, making the world a better place for everyone, especially marginalized groups that have to fight for basic safety and dignity on a day to day basis.”

While connections made at events like this are important, there is also a lot of haziness in making plans for action after such an experience. Samantha, the world traveller from Austin, when asked if she plans to change anything in her life in response to the presidency, beyond attending protests, reflected and says, “I don’t have an answer right now, but something definitely has to happen. Change takes more than just protest marches. I don’t know what will be most effective. Calling representatives or donating money. I don’t have a game plan. I don’t know how to get the people that really need to hear to listen.” This is a sentiment shared by many, and is certainly a difficult question to address.

Protests show democracy in action, but the change they demand only arrives with hard, continuous, deliberate, and intentional effort. The “Women’s March on Washington” started on January 21, 2017 and only time will tell if it ended where it began or if it finds new beginnings and continuous roots in, what many argue, is a time of political turbulence.