Marching for Jobs, Justice, and Freedom
This August, I was happy to attend the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington that marked Dr, Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. There was a synergy about it. I had served on the National Steering Committee for the 25th Anniversary of the March when I was the Coordinator of the Washington Peace Center. Now at the 50th Anniversary I was serving as the National Convener for United for Peace and Justice, a national network of local and national peace groups. We mobilized a small contingent to bring our bright message to this Anniversary. We gathered at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where we laid a wreath, shared a few words and then with the support of the NY Light Brigade held a procession to the Lincoln Memorial and then on to the King Monument. The sad and perverse thing about the night is that at the King Monument we tried to spell out “I have a dream” with our light boards and the Park Police, armed with automatic weapons, forced us to leave. Our effort to leave the wreath was successful but our later efforts to take a photo of the monument with the word DREAM were again met with an overwhelming show of state power. About 10 police arrived as back up to stop the photo op of King’s message in lights at the monument itself!
The march the next day felt great despite the sea of barricades set up to control the flow (I wonder who is on the board of the barricade makers’ companies…). There was a sea of humanity, young, old, black, white, yellow and brown. Everyone was happy and the generosity of spirit was palpable. United for Peace and Justice made posters and distributed thousands for free. It was great to see how many people wanted something with the word peace on it.
In fact, in our organizing in advance of the march, one woman spoke of the importance of not seeing the peace movement as a separate movement but seeing instead that people in every movement are supportive of peace. I wish after all these years of organizing that I felt like this is true, and I know that at times it is. The march United for Peace and Justice initiated February 15, 2001 was the largest global mobilization in history – 11 million people said no to the US war in Iraq.
But it was now over ten years later and Trayvon Martin had just been killed, voting rights were under attack and a possible war with Syria was starting to brew. Our country has been reeling from the economic collapse and mass wealth theft of 2008, the awe of the Arab Spring and the rapidly growing Take the Square and Occupy movements. This was an important time to be in the streets and I was so glad that I was. I got to see friends new and old. I got to feel the power of the youth. I got to hear the songs on the breeze, carrying us all. It was just a great day all in all and I hope that the seeds once again planted grow strong and deep until we meet again.