On July 9th, 2022, I traveled to Washington D.C. to document the Women’s March Summer of Rage event. I had no agenda. I was simply filled with rage and needed to document and bear witness to the collective action of my fellow women and allies as everyone screamed into the void. I decided to publish a photo essay of the day’s events and give both my observations and personal opinions of what I witnessed. If you’d like to read a deeper essay on the day, please visit my previous article here.
I chose some of my favorite images that do not highlight individual protestors, only iconography, signs/symbols and group shots, to mint as fundraisers on my artist-owned smart contract on Foundation called Unraveling ($UNRAVEL). I will be minting sections of images that will incorporate a smart contract split which automatically sends 75% of all proceeds to DAOs supporting women’s rights and impact DAOs I am active within and who support social justice causes. The first round of minting will support ChoiceDAO, a collective working to fund and engage in the fight for reproductive rights.
Surrounding the perimeter of the Women's March initial gathering location, predominately male pro-life agitators positioned themselves in key locations and began loudly vocalizing their rhetoric towards the march participants. DC Metro Police stood near each agitator and prevented them from physically approaching the women at the march.
Several women chose to engage the agitators and were then met by the march's de-escalators whose sole purpose was to ensure that people ignored the agitators so no oxygen would be given to their presence. One de-escalator stood directly in-front of an agitator for an extended length of time and she served as a barrier between the ignorance and hate of the agitator and the rest of the participants at the march.
While signs at a protest are an easy subject to document, I still feel compelled to capture the words and sentiments that protestors place on their signs and spend the day holding and amplifying. This one resonates hard as a women from the South who was raised to have a voice but still has had to navigate using that voice for decades through the patriarchy as a GenXr.
Sometimes the signs carry a stronger message of rage than the chanting.
Groups of women gather at the park in-between the legal action workshop, aka how to get arrested properly, and the speakers from the Women's March event.
RBG was present in spirit and in a multitude of iconography throughout the march. For someone who dedicated her life to protecting the rights of all women, to see her in so many instances throughout the day placed a powerful veil around the event and reminded me of how much was lost in the reversal of Roe.
Chanting, singing and dancing in a large gathering before the speakers took to the stage helped elevate the energy and channel the rage that so many women have been carrying for so long which is particularly strong at this moment.
Male allies were also present at the rally and this man spent the day carrying the American flag and the flag of LGBTQ+ inclusivity. Having the presence of male allies really does make a powerful difference in feeling protected and heard for me and it was refreshing to see so many men standing with the women on this day.
The power and presence of the protestors could not be denied and many women and female-identifying people leaned into their full agency as they voiced their rage.
One thing I’ve always loved about protest signs, besides the passion and creativity, is that they often encapsulate so much more than a slogan or a meme. To make and carry a sign for hours on end, and in the rain in this instance, allows one to show the depth of outrage and frustration. Protest signs and iconography resonate on a deep level for activists and observers.
As the speakers were rallying the crowd to begin the march towards the White House, the skies opened up and the rain began. Yet no one left. Organizers started handing out ponchos to participants and the signs stayed strong, if not a little soggy.
As the protestors headed towards the White House, lines of people began to merge in the street from the park. This male ally carried this flag from start to finish and I couldn’t help but photograph it throughout the day. I struggle personally with the reality that so many treasonous citizens in this country have co-opted a symbol I used to hold dear. I also have a slight cognitive dissonance with the flag itself and the sheer violence and patriarchal destruction that has occurred under this flag.
Organizers and leaders wait at the front of the march to allow all the participants to filter in from the park and gather before heading to the White House. The march was led by a collective of women from the Women’s March organization with representation from BIPOC, LGBTQ+, women with disabilities, indigenous women and a multitude of religious and ethnic backgrounds. Strong women who know how to hold space and stand in their full power are the ones who will voice their outrage and take collective action against the oppression we are all facing now.
Male allies also held space as security and de-escalators for the group. This man made sure the press was kept at a safe distance and did not impeded the progress of the march. I bounced between the swarms of press (old habits die hard) and the march participants and wore the protest bandana, because I see myself as an activist and not a member of the press. I was not surprised to see older white men holding all the cameras for the major news organizations. One camera man in particular was right beside me when I took this image and right after, the security man asked him to keep moving. The camera man, “but I need to get my shot” and the security man just looked at him like, “I don’t give AF”. That was a pinnacle moment for me. To see my former profession, dominated by white males, trying to impede the progress of a women’s march so he could “get his shot” speaks volumes as to why so many loathe the press and why women’s stories are so often missing or misrepresented in the press. Because the patriarchy has to “get his shot” so he can head back to the newsroom with more cliched images of his interpretation of our struggle. He could have simply been patient and documented rather than force his visual agenda on thousands of people. I’m grateful security just ignored him.
More wrangling of the press by the security detail and organizers. There were women present in the press, which made me excited, and I have colleagues in DC at major outlets who are all women, so I am happy to see women documenting the issues impacting us all. We need more divine feminine representation in the media, particularly in the photojournalism department and we also need much more racial and ethnic diversity in those vital storytelling roles as well.
March organizers held the group together, led everyone in chants to make our voices heard and made sure the front of the line stayed strong and cohesive. The coordination and planning for such a large event is often not seen or apparent in the heat of the action. Being at the front of the march, I was able to witness such strong organizing in action and could see that the organizers were there to do exactly what they said at the beginning of the day— hold space and be heard.
One of the march organizers instructs one side of the march’s front line to move slowly as they turn the corner towards the White House. Maintaining the structure of the march is important as they approached their destination to keep thousands of people organized and ready to implement the civil disobedience aspect of the event.
There is something deeply powerful about marching towards the most powerful icons in the world and then seeing another symbol of our country in the distance. I grew up down the road from DC and we would often come to the city on school or family day trips, so the icons of this city are not new to me. My grandfather immigrated to this country in the 1920s to study art and actually designed and sculpted some of the intricate carvings on these icons. But being in a large group of protestors filled with rage, heading towards the most powerful house in the world and seeing the Washington Monument in the distance lands deep in one’s psyche as to just how dire our current reality has become.
What protest would be complete without dogs? None. Seeing sweet puppers marching with their owners always brings me joy— and amazes me that a pupper can be so calm amongst so much energy. My sweet old hound dog would be a hot-ass mess at a protest.
As the march arrived at the White House, the majority of the group stayed in the park across from the building. Those who agreed to participate in civil disobedience and submitted forms so the march organizers could follow them through the legal system if arrested, made their way to the fence in front of the White House. Per the law, people are not allowed to stand or sit in front of this fence and will be asked to move or risk arrest by Park Police. The process and risks were explained in-depth at the beginning of the march rally in the park. As a privacy nerd, I did not fill out the forms and I was there alone, so there was no one to hand my gear to if I was arrested, so I did my protest dance of swarming with the press and flying under the radar to simply document what unfolded before me.
Protestors rotated standing on the fence and voicing their rage and anger. Some dressed in protest, others simply stood and chanted.
In front of the fence, a multitude of women held a sit in. Some chanted and others prayed, holding space for the collective to scream into the void and hope their cries were heard. I like to think they were heard as the Biden administration issued EOs before and after the protest. The actions from the administration aren’t nearly enough, but at least it was a start.
Sometimes I’m able to create images that you can literally hear. There are several in this essay that fall into this category. This sequence in particular drew me in and I didn’t realize what I had captured until I was editing. This woman was clearly crossing the line of illegal action in the eyes of the Park Police. At this point, about 20 minutes into civil disobedience, the Secret Service were out in numbers and making their presence known. In the next image, you’ll see the Secret Service walking in front of this woman and her brief uncertainty, but he did not take any action.
I was actually impressed that the SS and Park Police gave the women the space for a long period of time to voice their rage and engage in peaceful protest. The obvious coordination ahead of time with law enforcement was evident and while it sucks that this is even necessary, I was given a small sliver of hope that law enforcement allowed this large protest to continue in such a way. In the last image of this sequence, the woman’s rage at the patriarchy that SS represented as it walked past can be heard again. I was last in DC to document the massive protests against the Trump Administration’s Family Separation policy in 2018 and the atmosphere between police and protestors was much more intense and tension filled.
A protestor leads chants in front of the White House during the civil disobedience portion of the protest. Again, this is another image that carries sound and charged emotion within it and I would say this one image encapsulates the entire day and our collective rage. As someone who’s documented protests for 2+ decades and in multiple countries, I always look for the image that summarizes the day for me. Sometimes its a quiet image of resignation afterwards and in other instances, its a moment of peak action and rage. This one falls into the latter category.
As the civil disobedience aspect of the march grew, so did the sit in before the White House.
As I mentioned before, most of the cameras telling the visual story of this event were manned by older white males. We grossly underestimate the impact this has on issues as they reach the wire services, like Reuters. One of the major reasons I’m so dedicated to decentralizing the news industry over at JournoDAO is to finally create a mechanism that will allow journalists of color, different genders and ethnicities to support their work so they can cover the issues impacting their communities. One of many utter travesties in the news industry is the telling of almost all the news through the eyes of the patriarchy with almost no representation outside of elite white men. I began working as a photojournalist in 1996 and have seen this reality time and time again. It was one of many reasons I left the industry.
One of the acts of coordinated civil disobedience was to take the bandanas provided by the march organizers and tie them to the fence surrounding the White House. I love the quiet act of rebellion in this image. Not all actions of protest need to be emotionally charged, sometimes the act of quiet defiance are just as powerful.
I took a moment to tie my own bandana to the fence as my own quiet act of disobedience. Its not much, and my documentation and my pen are my acts of protest, but in that moment I felt a quiet resignation that I am now an active part of the resistance, not a simple observer with a camera. This flies against everything I was taught as a journalist, but we are now living through a time where we face brutal authoritarian rule and the loss of my human rights is just the beginning. Its time to act, not just observe.
Sometimes the symbolism speaks for itself.
GenZ made its presence known at this protest and they will not go quietly into the destructive future we have all handed them. The reality that abortion is health care and that by banning abortion, the GOP is stating that not only are women’s rights irrelevant, so are our lives. If Roe was reversed when I was 23, I wouldn’t be here right now. I had an ectopic pregnancy that could only be healed through an abortion. As I write this, women across the country in Red states are suffering and possibly dying because of miscarriages or nonviable pregnancies that doctors will not treat out of fear. The visual of this image is powerful and spot on. And is sadly the reality for many women at this moment.
A Secret Service agent would appear periodically on the rooftop of the White House to observe the protest. On the ground, SS agents were walking bomb sniffing dogs through the crowd and patrolling the areas surrounding the sit in. But again, they allowed the women to hold space and be heard. If the power shifts to the GOP in 2024, which I fear it will, this will not be the case. And event like this would turn violent fast. I actually anticipated a live shooting event or mass arrests at the event and spent a fair amount of time scanning the rooftops as the event progressed. A sad reality for living in America is that events like this have a high probability of turning into a mass shooting event. I weep for my country…often.
The march continued back to the point of origin once the sit in was complete. The man bearing the flag was still with the group and I found the thread of following this flag all day powerful and resonate.
Sometimes the best sign at a protest is the simplest— and most powerful.
As I was walking back to the Metro to make the long haul back to North Carolina to visit friends, I noticed signs from the protest in the trash can. I don’t know what metaphor this actually represents— one could take this meaning in several directions. I just thought it as a fitting visual to end the day.
I want to give a big shout out to the supporters of this project who tipped me (through Twitter & Venmo) during my coverage of the event and just before. Your support gave me a much needed confidence boost in just knowing people were watching and supporting my efforts. And the extra jiggle money to buy a few hot meals after a long, stressful day in the rain and some gas money to make it back to a warm and dry couch were so greatly appreciated! Thanks so much to Satya Colombo & Keith Axline for your support! Please give them both a follow-- they are doing such amazing things in the world right now!
Please head over to the Unraveling Collection on Foundation ($UNRAVEL) and support the DAOs I’ve chosen to create splits for to donate 75% of the proceeds from each NFT sale to support issues of social justice, including ChoiceDAO who is supporting the fight for reproductive rights.