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Solidarity, sister!

On Sunday, April 25th, 2004, I marched on Washington, D.C. to demand more governmental respect for women worldwide. It was exhausting and painful and one of the best things I have ever done. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Our trip has been covered in detail elsewhere, so I'll let you browse our photos there (if you haven't already) and then return to read what I have to say.

At about 1 p.m., when the actual marching had been going on for an hour, Sarah and I were waiting at the corner of 14th Street and Constitution Avenue. Sarah had talked to my sister Kelly on the phone, and she was on her way to find us, so we were waiting there for her. It took her about twenty minutes, but eventually she showed up with some friends of hers in tow.

We greeted, and hugged, and discussed the day's events so far, when suddenly I noticed, coming down Constitution Avenue, on a collision course with the main body of Marchers, and escorted by a few dozen police on motorcycles, a loud and unruly crowd of people, mostly dressed in black with splashes of red and pink and purple here and there. They were chanting loudly and carrying flags.

I said to my sister, "Uh, are those the anti-choice* people? Maybe we should move."

She turned and looked for a moment. "No," she said. "Those are my people."

Kelly had arrived in D.C. that morning with a group of radical anarchists. My little sister, bless her heart, has a penchant for gravitating towards libertarian utopian ideals. While I'm fairly certain she doesn't fully embrace radical anarchy, she probably likes some of it, so there she was.

While anarchists aren't generally in favour of governmental anything, they realise that restricting womens' freedom isn't going to help bring the world any closer to their vision, so a few hundred of them came to D.C. to add their support to the March. Kelly told me this. She didn't tell the rest of the March participants who happened to be at that corner, though. They just saw a large crowd of people dressed in black, waving black flags, chanting and marching on a collision-course with them. The police stayed in between.

There was palpable uncertainty and tension as they approached. Some of the Marchers had quieted down and turned to watch this crowd, unsure what to make of it. As the anarchists neared, though, their signs became readable: many pro-women, pro-freedom, pro-civil rights messages. When the Marchers realised these newcomers were on our side, a cheer burst forth, and the police quickly dissipated, allowing the anarchists to joyfully merge with and be welcomed by the main body of the March.

This little event struck me more than anything else that happened that day, but I'm not sure why. I feel like it was important. Maybe it was how it showed that semi-disparate groups can unite for a common cause, or maybe it was just the pure spirit and joy the anarchists showed, or maybe something else entirely that I haven't thought of yet.

We hung out with my sister and her friends for the next few hours, until we had to leave to catch the bus, and they were very nice people. Spending a day surrounded by over a million like-minded people who agreed with me made me feel safe and happy and optimistic. As frightened and uncomfortable as I am with the current state of the country, knowing that there are so many others out there who are striving to put things back on the right track makes me hopeful for the future.

I hope the world never needs another rally like this, but if it does, I'll definitely be there.




* The term "anti-choice" is pro-choice propaganda. I had a big discussion about this with the ifmud crowd, and we pretty much determined that there isn't a pair of terms that is accurate and non-biased and easy to use. Anti-legal-abortion and pro-legal-abortion is the best I can come up with, but they're unwieldy.

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
xmurf
Apr. 29th, 2004 06:12 pm (UTC)
OK, so, no offense, but: you strike me as a fairly reasonable sort of person. Which makes you just about the only such one I know who seems to attend protests, and therefore uniquely suited to be asked: WHY? Do you honestly believe anyone in the government could possibly give a fuck about a few thousand people standing around waving signs? If so, what leads you to think this? If not, why do you do it?

I'm really not trying to sound insulting here, or start a fight -- I'm really curious. I cannot conceive of a universe in which any politician could even begin to care.
kizlj
Apr. 29th, 2004 06:29 pm (UTC)
I thought about that too, and here's my theory. It's not about changing the minds of those who disagree with you, because placards and slogans are pretty unlikely to sway people on an issue like abortion. Even the show of numbers isn't likely to do much there -- I don't think any politican takes the anti-choice side of the argument because they think this is an issue about which people are apathetic.

But what big huge gatherings like this probably can work well for is firing up the politicans and activists and such who agree with you. Which is not an inconsequential thing. People in the position to get stuff done on issues have a whole lot of issues competing for their attention. I imagine that occasional mass turnouts of nearly a million people visibly showing they care passionately about this, and cheering on the activists/politicians/etc ... well, most people work harder when they get some positive reinforcement that what they're doing matters. Lots of pro-choice politicians, like Hillary Clinton, turned out for the event. I'm sure it left an impression on them. That might make a difference months or years from now when they're figuring out how hard to fight on Supreme Court confirmation battles and other legislative actions.
allypopsicle
Apr. 29th, 2004 06:49 pm (UTC)
hi, i know this question wasn't directed towards me but i'd like to respond with what i got out of attending the march, because i went too.

i wasn't sure whether i was going to go or not, but i realized forty bucks wasn't a big deal when i recognized that i would get out of it. it was a lot more than i expected. i think, first of all, it exposed me to a lot of new information that i hadn't been clear on, or things i didn't even know existed. secondly, it made me feel like i had a support system, to know that one million other people felt strongly about the same things that i did. third, one of the important messages they sent was not to just march, because everyone in the country could march, but if they didn't go to the polls in november, it wouldn't matter. so they definitely encouraged the action that would make a difference in the government.

i hope this helps a bit. or at least gives you a different view point.
rfreebern
Apr. 29th, 2004 08:23 pm (UTC)
As others have said, the rally isn't necessarily meant to change anyone's mind. It provides a point of strength for those who already agree, though, and motivates people to keep working for change. It helps provide rhetoric for future debates, which can convince people. It brings the issue to the forefront of peoples' consciousness again, which can help facilitate further action or, at the very least, consideration.

This rally was meant to be a show of solidarity, a reminder to anyone listening that, hey, a million people took the time and money and effort needed to make their views known on that day.
mskala
Apr. 29th, 2004 07:26 pm (UTC)
I marched on Washington, D.C. to demand more governmental respect for women worldwide.

Is that what you were marching for? I thought the march was about the right to choose abortion. Those are not the same thing, even if you believe that one necessarily implies the other. Equating them doesn't serve any good purpose.
rfreebern
Apr. 29th, 2004 08:30 pm (UTC)
The march was not only a pro-choice march, although that was one of its main purposes. It was focused on womens' reproductive health in general. I believe that only when governments fully respect women will they choose to provide the services and laws needed to make the full range of education, contraception, and medical alternatives available to all women regardless of financial or other matters.

Others may have been marching about the right to choose abortion. I marched for more than that.

This page has more information.
brekke
Apr. 30th, 2004 12:06 am (UTC)
Of course, on top of all of what's been said, a main reason for attending protests is to meet like minded people, and to talk with them about issues. And stuff. Networking and all that.

Sorry, I seem to have the mind of an artist tonight. Scattered, messy, with a point in there somewhere.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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