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Too old to march, too mad to be silent

The National Women’s March has a senior citizen’s auxiliary.

Three of the half-dozen octogenarian protesters who set up shop near the senior citizens’ residence where they live in downtown Washington, D.C., during Saturday’s Women’s March. CREDIT: Alan Pyke/ThinkProgress
Three of the half-dozen octogenarian protesters who set up shop near the senior citizens’ residence where they live in downtown Washington, D.C., during Saturday’s Women’s March. CREDIT: Alan Pyke/ThinkProgress

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A half-dozen blocks north of the route of Saturday’s massive Women’s March protesting President Donald Trump, a cluster of sympathizers huddled with their signs.

Waves of marchers passed by on their way to the main event, stopping in most cases to hoot and holler in solidarity.

These women would love to be joining the march. But they had a hard enough time convincing their landlords to let them go even as far as this spot in Thomas Circle. They are in their 80s and 90s, veterans of many cycles of American political harmony and social discord. The management at their building were terrified these seniors might get hurt even walking three hundred feet to the circle.

That concern wasn’t going to stop 83-year-old Harriet Fulbright from demonstrating her dissent against Trumpism.

“Damnit, I feel strongly about making our views and feelings known,” Fulbright said. “I’m here because I’m very worried.”

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Like her fellow senior sign-wavers, Fulbright remembers the mass upheaval of the Vietnam era and the paranoia which government surveillance and sabotage of dissenters inspired.

Something about today’s moment is scarier than the demagogues before, both losers like Barry Goldwater and winners like Richard Nixon.

“This is new. Nixon was not my favorite,” Fulbright said, with a wry grin, “but I’m more worried now.”

Mamie Chesslin, 83, nodded along with that comparison from her wheeled scooter. As a former Department of Justice attorney who spent her career enforcing environmental laws, Chesslin knows better than most just how much federal agencies influence the future — for brighter or dimmer.

Tina Hobson, 87, solicits cars to honk against Trump as younger protesters pass by Thomas Circle on their way to the march. CREDIT: Alan Pyke/ThinkProgress
Tina Hobson, 87, solicits cars to honk against Trump as younger protesters pass by Thomas Circle on their way to the march. CREDIT: Alan Pyke/ThinkProgress

“I honestly wonder how we’re going to survive it,” Chesslin said. “He’s pathological in a way we haven’t seen before. The world doesn’t stop because of Donald Trump, but nobody told him that.”

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As another cluster of young women passed, their dark warm-weather practicality accented by pink hats and gloves, the streetlight adjacent to the half-dozen seniors changed. For a minute, the two groups mingled and chatted. “Thank yous” were abundant, as were peals of laughter at the mix of righteousness and vulgarity plastered across the younger women’s handmade signs.

“I’ve been astonished and delighted by the reactions from younger people today,” said Tina Hobson, 87, who helped rally the group to defy the well-intentioned concerns of the residence staff. “Instead of an intense, anxious day, it’s been a lot of fun.”

As the light changed again and the younger marchers moved on toward the National Mall, co-organizer Nana McIntosh looked after them.

“When you get to this age you remember what life was like before Roe vs. Wade. You can tell the stories,” she said.

“None of us thought we’d be doing this again.”