Two charter buses, 75 people, 35 hour drive—crazy, right?
On the way home from the Women's March on Washington, SFR rode for a few miles next to Lava Buckley-Sheets. The Albuquerque native was part of the organizing committee for the New Mexico-to-DC trip. Buckley-Sheets helped with bake sales, pussy hat knitting circles, art shows and fundraising for sponsored protesters.
“When we first started organizing I thought we would just get here and go on our own, but we stayed together,” she says. “It felt good to show up because we’re one of the poorest states, and we rank pretty low in education and childcare. But we needed to represent; we needed to let people know we’re New Mexico and we made the trek to get here and represent.” Lead organizer Amanda Flory expected the New Mexico charter bus contingent to be larger than it was. Over 400 people registered for the march, but a large portion of them traveled independently. The two charter buses transporting the New Mexicans held about 75 people combined, not including the Oklahoma and Arkansas protesters they picked up.
Buckley-Sheets is an independent filmmaker who is originally from Ohio. She worked in various casting, direction and production positions on Independence Day 2 and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, as well as Longmire, Breaking Bad and Manhattan. She knew she'd miss her husband and dog, but she says she wanted to demonstrate in the nation’s capital for equal rights for everyone, especially for her mother, who is from Thailand and now lives in Albuquerque. “When I heard about the march I thought about my mom being scared and I was feeling scared. I felt like [the march] was something I could do to show that there was still hope in this country,” she says. Buckley-Sheets says she feels unsafe in an era of intense racial division as an Asian-American woman with a disability. Ten months ago, she was attacked by her neighbor’s dog, which risked her ability to walk again. “There are people that often feel sad for me and I get treated differently. I wasn’t disabled until 10 months ago and it makes me sad when I’m pitied,” she says.
“People now have the momentum to come together to make sure we watch this administration under a microscope,” she says. “This wasn’t just a march. This is the beginning.”
Before the march, she felt hopeless. Now she has the inspiration to believe in a kinder, more loving country. She felt an immense amount of support at the march and tells SFR it exceeded all her expectations and even described it as euphoric. Mosh on WashingtonThey called it a march, but no one really moved from point A to point B. The national organizers of the Women's March on Washington weren’t prepared for over a million attendees. Approximately 500,000 people were registered for the demonstration, but DC Metro Police and news sources like the Washington Post and The New York Times estimate between one and two million. The three-hour-long rally caused restlessness among the protesters, which led to pushing, shoving and fainting.
After the crowd dispersed from the rally, they realized they didn’t know where to march and it was impossible to move in one continuous direction without guidance. Several attendees were injured during the mess; luckily, medics were on standby and treated them quickly. But the Women's March was a disorganized organization, to say the least; nobody physically marched until much later, when discomfort had weeded out the crowd.
Then the DC Metro Police finally stepped in. They stood on top of their cars and attempted to direct people toward Independence Avenue, but most people had spread out by then. Most people ignored the directions and continued to move independently. They headed toward the White House, Capitol Building, Trump International Hotel, the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. About 100 people stood outside Trump International Hotel where more protest signs decorated the sidewalk and metal barricades guarding the entrance. Groups filtered in and out of the mini-protest and joined in their chant, "You're orange! You're gross! You lost the popular vote!"
As the sun set in DC and the air grew cold, the demonstration seemed to end, but people in pink still lingered in the streets. SFR and the New Mexico women left DC on Jan. 22 and arrived in Albuquerque on Jan. 23.
A thick turquoise necklace adorns her neck. Matching slabs dangle from her ears, peeking through her sleek black hair. Debra Haaland’s posture radiates confidence. She quietly sits aboard the bus, westbound through Appalachia, eager to talk about the reason she took the trip.
“I’ve been to a lot of political rallies and events,” she says, “but nothing like this.” As the first Native chairwoman of the New Mexico State Democratic Party, Haaland appreciated the huge race and age diversity and the size of the crowd. Haaland hails from the Pueblo of Laguna and now lives in Albuquerque. She is stepping down from the party leadership job this spring but plans to stay on high alert.
“We don’t stop here,” she says. “I would like to make sure everyone realizes that it doesn’t end here. We had a wonderfully beautiful and successful march. But we need to stay on top of things.” Haaland says she marched for her sisters in solidarity, the environment, Planned Parenthood, the education system and the Affordable Care Act. “I wanted to march to raise awareness of the fear and anger a lot of us were experiencing and how our country will change under this president. And I wanted to show solidarity with my sisters across the country." She refers to Hillary Clinton's campaign slogan: "I feel we are stronger together."
The bus swayed heavily as it bypassed a tornado through an unidentified town in Tennessee. Haaland tells SFR that the four-day trip sent her through a variety of emotions, from happy to inspired to empathetic to determined. “I think it was important for us to have a presence at that march. [New Mexicans] are leaders in the country now. We took a stand on November 8th; our state overwhelmingly voted Democratic and, in a way, people are looking to New Mexico to ask, ‘How did you do this?’ and ‘What can we do to help our state be more like yours?’ We are leaders in the country whether we accept that or not, but we need to move forward.”