Everyone else is weighing in, why not me? I’ve looked at very little of the social media since the march yesterday. My perspective may change…
I’ll start by saying that street protest isn’t my thing. It gives me cold anxiety. I’ve got baggage, in the form of ugly memories.
One memory is of a protest that “went wrong”. It may have left no historical traces… Around April 30, 1970, the United States bombed Cambodia and American campuses exploded. There was a protest march from my campus (I was a junior at Michigan State University) to the state capitol in Lansing. I joined the march, which seemed to have a good collection of marshals and other volunteers, and reasonable police cooperation. We’d been warned about tear gas, etc., and were a little jumpy. We walked along one lane of the main street between East Lansing and Lansing.
Presently, we were stopped, told to move to the sidewalk (?), told to sit, warned that we would hear sirens. Told “they’re on our side”. They came and went, without much fuss. We walked on. Then we saw the car that had been driven intentionally across the line of march. Two or three people had been taken to the hospital. The driver had been protected by marshals and/or police, and taken away for arrest. The car was smashed. It looked like it had been shot up. But there had been no gunfire. Marchers carrying umbrellas (it was rainy) had vented their anger on the windshield, which was punctured. We walked past, on the broken glass. I can’t remember anything about the rally at the capitol in Lansing. Could I hear a word anyone said? I can’t remember how I got home. Did they tell us there would be buses? Direct us onto city buses? Maybe I walked back. I’m also unable to remember with whom I marched. Perhaps I was alone.
Then came the shootings at Kent State in Ohio on May 4, 1970, when four students died and nine more were injured by the Ohio National Guard. (Wikipedia calls it a “massacre”.) It was a dark time. My roommate had nightmares. Our campus was in a state of civil disorder. No one could count on going to classes if they wanted to.
Michigan State (like many colleges) cancelled classes and encouraged students to go home. I spent the weekend on a farm near Kalamazoo, where it was so quiet we could hear the corn grow. We found that people away from the campus perceived more danger and disorder than we had actually experienced. But everyone worried and fretted.
And what did I do next? I escaped! Left the country! My application to the Exchange for Technical Experience was approved, and I was offered a summer job in the Netherlands! Off I went, for a summer of fun. What a relief!
This wasn’t what I meant to write. So… I don’t like demonstrations, and have barely participated since that time. Letter writers and citizen lobbyists are needed. And I ALWAYS, ALWAYS vote, in everything from primaries and school board races to national elections. Maybe tomorrow I’ll write about the Women’s March in Trenton.
PS – Added January 16, 2020: On August 12, 2017, I was in Portland, Oregon getting lunch in a taproom. My husband was reading Facebook on his phone, and found terrible news. We learned about the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA, not from a news source but from our dear niece HT, who had been among the protesters when a white supremacist had driven into the crowd, killing one person and injuring 19. HT wanted us to know that although she was bruised and shocked, she was safe. I burst into tears. I still grieve for the family of Heather Heyer, who died, and worry about those who were injured. I don’t know if I will ever protest again.
4 thoughts on “Women’s Protest March (Trenton, NJ) and protest memories – what can go wrong”
I grew up demonstrating with my mother and doing electoral politics with my father so I am in both worlds.
I’m really glad you wrote this. I also care very much about issues, but find demonstrating scary…my fears are more about being trampled or caught in a stramash between irrational folk or anarchists….there really is a need for people to be actively involved that aren’t in the madding crowd.
There are so many ways to support the causes we value! And honestly, how often does one participant more or less matter? I think building relationships with elected officials is very important. So is educating ourselves, so we can be more persuasive. If someone tells me they aren’t going to a particular march or demonstration (for any reason or no reason), that’s fine! But they better not tell me they didn’t vote!