This weekend I brought my voice to the Millions March NYC, in protest of police brutality nationwide. The pain is especially raw here, after the grand jury decision not to indict Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner.
So how do you describe a march like this? It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t good. It was not a pleasant way to spend a Saturday. But it was important. It was important to have a mass show of support, to send a signal to politicians and leaders. And, on a personal level, it was important to me to be supportive of the black/brown/not-white people in the city (and in my life) and speak up for them. (I have written previously about why I think this is indeed a racial issue.) Maybe selfishly, it was important for my soul to stand on the side of justice.
So if it wasn’t fun, good, a picnic, etc, what was it? It was powerful. It was angry. The march hummed with an energy that I did not expect. Just a few months ago I participated in the People’s Climate March to protest climate change and demand action. We did get action (hooray!), and the march was significant primarily for its size. Over 300,000 people marched in NYC alone. And maybe it was my pocket, but there was a sense of bland goodwill in the air. It mattered because it could affect most of us there, not because it already had. (Notable exception- the band of Hurricane Sandy survivors we passed near Central Park.)
The Millions March Day of Anger, though……there were five percent of the protestors and twice the energy. The chanting was almost constant, from “Hands up, don’t shoot!” to “Grand jury, bullshit!” to “Eric Garner, Michael Brown, shut it down, shut it down!” Waves of shouts or cheers would roll from the front of the protest to the back. Even though we were cold and tired and walking for miles, determination filled the air.
These were a few signs among many that resonated with me. Equally powerful were signs showing pictures, names, and cause of death of innocent African Americans killed by police for doing such shocking criminal acts as sleeping at home, stepping out of their car after being pulled over, or asking for help from an officer.
People peacefully entered a store and posed with hands up, near Canal Street.
You can barely make it out, but the sign quotes “A Change is Gonna Come.”
It has been a long time coming, and as a white girl in a predominantly white country, I will do what I can to hurry it along. That means listening to the stories and experiences of other-hued people, especially black and brown people. It means standing up for what is right, even when it is uncomfortable. And it means putting my faith in action and doing justice for the oppressed.
Speaking of which, this was the sign that I carried (yes, photographed while taped to a wall because it no longer lies flat).