In response to a First Nations friend who was told by a Washington, D.C. resident that marches don't matter and, "we could march all day and night and that it would still not have an effect on the White House though the spirit of our people was beautiful."
She responded, "After that talk with him, I realized what it really meant to be an activist, water protector, and revolutionary. Marches are not direct action and their purpose only makes ourselves feel better about getting our aggression out there so what impact do they really have?"
He has a point, but there are a few things to consider. First, any march that incites thousands and thousands to travel to and march in D.C. sends a signal to legislators that there is a rising presence, awareness and concern about that issue. If it is well publicized, it also sends a message to others who are concerned that there is a large contingent concerned and active.
Location is everything. Washington, D.C. is a great place to march, but, it's not the most impressive place to march. When there is a spontaneous outpouring of people into the streets in cities and towns across America, like there was for Standing Rock and for Black Lives Matter, that is very powerful.
I participated in the People's Climate March in D.C. in April, but it was nothing in comparison to the massive first People's Climate March in NYC. There were about 20,000 people there in 94º temps, but very few people watching the march.
In NYC, people lined the streets to watch and the participants, their floats, props, costumes and art installations went on and on and on for blocks. There was even a massive group in peaceful mediation on the grass in Central Park. It was an incredible outpouring of support for climate action, against pipelines and fossil fuels, for rights and democracy. It was diverse, well organized and an important show of solidarity. It had IMPACT.
Marches also serve to empower people. They don't just let out frustrations, they feel the energy generated by a force of people exercising their democratic right to peaceful protest and free speech.
When you think about marching, you may have to prioritize which you will attend, when, where and why, but know that they are meaningful and your presence, your action is a right to treasure and protect! This is true now more than ever as government restricts free speech, looks to stop peaceful protests and police forces become militarized. Exercise and defend your Constitutional rights!