Washington, D.C. will certainly be crowded on Jan. 20 and 21, thanks to Donald Trump’s inauguration and the Women’s March on Washington. But which event will draw more of a crowd? That remains to be seen.
BuzzFeed News reported that by Jan. 12, nearly three times as many charter bus parking permits had been issued for the Women’s March than for the inauguration: 1200 (or every available permit for RFK stadium, the city’s largest bus parking area) versus 393. In comparison, 900 permits had been issued for President Obama’s 2012 inauguration ceremony by the same point in time.
This seems to undercut the president-elect’s statements that turnout for his ceremony will be "unbelievable, perhaps record-setting" with “plenty of movie and entertainment stars." Additionally, numerous Democratic lawmakers have announced that they will be skipping the inauguration. For some, it was Trump’s indefensible rhetoric about, well, just about everything: "I thought long and hard about attending the Inauguration because I value our democracy and respect the office of the presidency, regardless of party. However, the disparaging remarks the President-elect has made about many groups, including women, Mexicans, and Muslims, are deeply contrary to my values. As a result, I will not be attending the Inauguration," California Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard said in a statement Sunday. For many others, his attack on Civil Rights icon and Georgia Representative John Lewis was the final straw, with several lawmakers tweeting that they would choose to stand with Lewis rather than Trump.
— Yvette D. Clarke (@RepYvetteClarke) January 14, 2017
The Women’s March on Washington, on the other hand, seems only to be gaining steam. By Jan. 17, 204,000 people were listed as going to the event on Facebook, with another 254,000 “interested.” Smaller marches in solidarity were planned for all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, England, Switzerland and Australia. According to their website, the Women’s March is a response to the toxic rhetoric of recent elections: “In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.”
As exciting as the potential for a turnout disparity is, Chris Geldart, director of the D.C. Department of Homeland Security, told NBC Washington that permits don’t necessarily imply attendance. “I can’t tell you which is going to be more or less people, or how many people from the 20th are going to stick around for the 21st to add to the numbers,” he said.
But the city is prepared for large turnouts to both events. City Councilman Charles Allen spoke to BuzzFeed News, saying that “While the demand for bus parking seems significantly less than for previous inaugurations, the District is well prepared and will be ready for all visitors and guests making their way here.” He went on to explain, “As the nation’s capitol, DC is no stranger to major events and we are ready to provide a safe experience for everyone and to protect their First Amendment rights in the process — including the large crowds expected for the Women’s March on Washington.”
For now, we can only wait to see what happens.