WASHINGTON, D.C. — Half a million gathered in D.C. this weekend for the new president's inauguration, whether it was to protest the new administration or simply watch history unfold. However, many are leaving D.C. with questions about how to stay politically engaged after experiencing the weekend's events.
On Friday, Carly Dunster and Daniella Goldfinger arrived at the capital to prepare for the Women's March on Washington. After getting off at the wrong Metro stop, they witnessed some of the violent protests that broke out on Inauguration Day and began to question whether the way people around them were communicating their political message was productive.
"It was really intense," Goldfinger said. "I don't necessarily see [the women's march] as a protest. For me, the words 'march' and 'demonstration' was more of an illustration of what we were wanting to get involved in, but when we saw [Friday's] actions, [the protests] didn't feel positive."
The following day, crowds invented more directed chants, like "This is what democracy looks like" and "Welcome to your first day, we will not go away."
In the end, Dunster and Goldfinger felt the march on Saturday was not a clearly better alternative to the violence they had witnessed. They hoped to be politically active, but weren't sure this was the best way.
"For me, it's going to be a bit of an iterative process, like we'll see what happens next," Dunster said. "But I'm certainly not interested in showing up and then being complacent again."
Goldfinger intended to let community organizers determine what the weekend's outcome means for future action.
"I would be curious to see what the Women's March — the organization — what they intend to do to continue to engage the pretty active group of people that came out today," Goldfinger said. "So I'm going to be looking to them in a way to maybe see what the next steps are."
In the days after Saturday's march, the Women's March organization has released an action plan to continue the momentum into the next 100 days. They provide templates for postcards to send to Congressional representatives and a form for visitors to be notified of more to come.
Protester Melanie Gonzalez wished that the demand of Women's March were clearer to begin with. She disapproves of many of Trump's actions and policies, and the weekend did not provide the satisfaction she was looking for.
"I think this was a nice gathering of people to motivate people's sense of spirit," Gonzalez said. "[But] protesting without demands is kind of a waste of time."
For ambivalent voters like USC student David Webb, the weekend's conflicting tones were cause for pause. Webb attended both the inauguration and the Women's March – his first political demonstration – to get a better sense of his options, in terms of political involvement.
"I was more of an observer and interested in hearing everyone's opinions rather than express my own," Webb said. "I probably won't be out there protesting anytime soon, but I mean, who knows. Maybe if our president makes a bad decision that I don't agree with, you might see me out there."
Although Webb may be unsure of how to stay politically engaged, he's comfortable with the uncertainty.
"At the end of the day, Democrat or Republican," he said, "I think we all want the same thing. I think we all want our country to do well."