The crowd descended on Capitol Hill like a slow moving, unarmed invading force.
When they were getting closer to the Capitol grounds I heard one police officer say to another standing next to him, “It’s showtime.” And he was right. For more than four hours this crowd would own this town.
They would dictate which roads were open and which were closed. They would dictate where the police were stationed. The would dictate the message of the day and overwhelm any verbal opposition. For four hours, the pro-life movement owned Washington, D.C.
It was a cold noon hour when they took over D.C. For just about all of them the day had been well on its way.
It started before dawn at the Verizon Center, with a simultaneous celebration at the University of Maryland Comcast Center, where the future generation of the pro-life movement would gather sometime between 6 and 7 a.m. to be in the crowd by 8 a.m. to listen to the speakers and attend a Mass. I was at the Verizon Center and despite not having my name on any “media list,” I managed to talk my way into the press section.
Many of the groups in attendance wore some sort of matching garment, either a scarf, hat or T-shirt. More than 17,000 filled the seats in this arena. They sang, danced and prayed together as a group. They all came out to seek Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington. They also got a glimpse of Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York who received a strong applause from the crowd. Even Archbishop of Milwaukee Jerome E. Listecki got a warm welcome from the young adults when his name was called.
It was called the “Youth Rally and Mass for Life” and it charged the batteries of the young people. When they emerged, three hours later, it was on to the streets to get the party started.
The march was a technicolor mix of people from all over the country, all ages, all races. I met people from Iowa, Minnesota, Kentucky and Missouri. The crowd marched through the streets and took a break on the National Mall near the Washington Monument to listen to people, like former presidential candidate Rick Santorum, talk. It was easy to get separated in a crowd like this. Rumor has it, more than 600,000 people were marching but that number has yet to be verified.
After spending some time on the Mall, they were off to the main destination: the Supreme Court of the United States, where the infamous Roe v. Wade decision was handed down in a 7-2 vote that made abortion legal. That was 40 years ago. The marchers would let the court know how they felt.
The pro-life activists marched around the entire block of the Supreme Court, surrounding it on all sides. In the front was a small platform, only 2 feet high. On that platform individuals who had been directly affected by abortion told their stories through a microphone.
There were a few pro-choice individuals who showed up, but they were quickly engulfed by the crowd and would eventually leave. Other than that… there was no opposition to the march.
At approximately 3:30 p.m. the permit for the march expired. But clearing out a crowd this big would take time. After 5 p.m. I was still seeing activists working their way to whatever transportation brought them here. But eventually the crowd had given the city back to the legislatures willingly and without trouble.