No. 88: Be a part of a protest

Washington Travel Blog

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No. 88:    Be a part of a protest


                Coming from a small town, protests aren’t something staged on a regular basis.  However, 8 years between Madison, Wisconsin and Washington, DC provided excellent opportunities to cross this number off my list.  I’m not the loudest or strongest voice for any one cause, but you don’t have to be as long as you believe in what you’re participating in.

                The first protest I attended was my sophomore year of college when the always vocal Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas came to town.  If you haven’t heard of him, he and his congregation travel around the country picketing and protesting homosexual lifestyles.  There were only about a dozen of them or so that made the trip to Madison and they set up shop in front of the Memorial Union.  I can recall being a part of a fairly large crowd, but I had yet to find the voice to express my opinion aloud.  It didn’t help that with every word that came out of his mouth, I wanted to puke.  In the same breath though, I couldn’t help realizing that as repulsive as he was, he was exercising his First Amendment rights, and that was the beauty of being an American.  Everyone has an opinion, and whether you agree with it, you can’t argue with their right to privilege it.  (For the record, I’m even more sick thinking about how he now spends his days travelling to funerals of Iraq and Afghanistan servicemen protesting gays.)  Then there was the time that the paper I wrote for ran an ad by David Horowitz calling for the end of reparations for slavery.  Once again, free speech at its finest.   (

The largest rally I ever attended was the “The United for Peace and Justice March on Washington to End the Iraq War” in January of 2007.   Almost a half million people showed up to hear Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Jesse Jackson and Jane Fonda speak on the National Mall.  Once the speakers had said their peace, we marched around the Capital Building, back down Independence Avenue, before wrapping up the day.  I spent the afternoon talking with people who had marched and protested for Civil Rights and the Vietnam War in the 60’s and 70’s.  I saw kids holding up handmade signs asking for peace next to grandmothers holding the same signs as they had decades earlier.  It was so odd to be a part of something that could unite so many different types of people from around the country.  It was a moving experience that I’m glad I opted to take part in.  It was a cause I believed in and it was nice knowing I wasn’t the only one out there fighting for it. 

I’m sure as my life moves forwards, that I’ll find something else I believe in to advocate or those that I don’t to protest.  Causes are all around and it is up to us to change their effects. 

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