An Activist’s Narrative on the National Equality March

By Erin Matson, NOW Action Vice President

NOW activist Julia E. Maresca traveled from New York to attend the NOW-endorsed National Equality March that took place on October 11. She shared her experiences below, and I wanted to share them with you:

Oct. 11th, Washington DC. Not wanting to miss a bit of the action, I arrived early at the March For Equality meet point, McPherson Square.10AM and the park easily accommodated the few early birds; the atmosphere, still benign. Volunteers were already in place handing out signs dominated by themes such as “We Won’t Wait”, “Stop the Harm” and “Equality Across America” (the namesake of the march).

I waited for the familiar NOW rounds as I had communicated with some West Coast NOW organizers to meet them at 11:30 at the corner of 15th St. and “Eye” St. There I paced: watching, enjoying creative signs, hoping. I’m not sure what time it started but from the south maybe a half an hour later, marching up 15th St. towards the park, a continuous organized band of college aged activists flowed. These activists were pumped up and already chanting calls to the growing crowds that built at the edge of the park to greet them. This line of power continued to flow for some time. As they crossed the road and marched right on up and in, the light changed several times and they kept coming. More sub-groups, more chants, each with one or two clear leaders, made themselves heard.

The masses grew at the south corners of the park effectively blocking and closing “Eye” St. south of the park – traffic had to reverse out. Still on the corner, I cheered them on and encouraged them into the road and into the park. Within an hour the never ending flowing line seemed to morph and seemed to pour in from all sides of the park. Finally I happened upon NOW on the corner just as promised. The DC NOW president came equip with a three wheeled bike, and lead us to the rest of the group. Once in position in the March line up on 16th St., by standing on the bike, I could see the the crowds that had filled the road several blocks north of the start -a far as my eyes could see. The March tone turned personal as neighbors in the March turned out to be fast friends, thousands walked and talked, chanted and sang. At certain points the three wheeled bike had to be lifted over barricades – but we did it!and with the help of many new friends.

The march went as planned, but having seen the Mall full for marches such as the “March For Women’s Lives” in 2004, the attendance of this march seemed, less than. Less than it should have been for such important causes. To me the true power was the ‘unplanned’ closing of that one block by activists being loud and proud. Marching on the Capitol lawn felt too civil, to “done” already and left me longing for more. We as marchers did not inconvenience DC. The weekend was a Holiday weekend and downtown DC – empty. We chanted to Obama to repeal DOMA and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. But where were his ears ? Was congress even in town? But even more important, where was the town, the DC town that boasts a federal workforce tied to politics like no other city. Where are the people? The public? And protesters? Only one truck with hate pasted on it’s sides drove around in circles, but even they eventually left, probably in boredom. Now

I do not want to belittle the accomplishment of HRC and many other groups who worked so hard to get Obama to say that he was “with us in our fight” – an amazing feat! but…. Marches should mean friction, Marches should mean unity, Marches should mean power in numbers. Our voices need to be more determined and continual like those kids marching up 15th. Our ideals and demands clear and unyielding. Our hopes, centered in love. With that they WILL hear and things WILL change. The message several hours later at the end of the rally was to go home and really start the fight, really work for change.

I agree when I say, every little American town has an “Eye” St.

P.S. from Erin – Many thanks to those who traveled far and wide to attend, and especially to NOW National Equality March lead Zoe Nicholson (Pacific Shore NOW President), and DC NOW President Elisabeth Crum.

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