Fellow citizens march down Marquette avenue on their way to demonstrate in front of the Better Business Bureau for a living wage, sick leave, immigration and other issues.
Last week I attended a march in downtown Minneapolis. It was late afternoon with a clear pale blue sky and a cold wind, like an invisible ocean current, flowing around the buildings. A group of about 100-200 people gathered at Peavey Plaza and then on the street.
This march has its roots deep in American history. It was inspired, in part, by the Boston Tea Party and guided by the timeless examples of Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. It was an expression of our basic freedoms of speech and assembly.
Demonstrating is at the heart of our democracy. It is a sacred ritual. It is our heritage and our legacy.
As we marched along chanting we were pulled closer together, just as in a church, as when the priest calls to the congregation and it responses en mass. It is a single voice transformed into a mighty chorus. It is the voice of a common consciousness shared amongst strangers. It unifies. It is a moral drumbeat.
Along the march I threaded my way amongst the people looking for images that expressed the moment. The group was diverse with Native Americans, students, young families and seniors. Some came with signs or wore distinctive clothes; one woman was dressed as a holocaust inmate. These people were dedicated. They showed up despite the late afternoon time and the cold wind.
This was an authorized demonstration with a police escort. In squad cars, on bikes and foot the police made certain that we were safe from the traffic. They redirected traffic so that we could exercise our rights. I was surprised that during the demonstration, even though it was now rush hour, only a couple of cars honked in protest and only one pedestrian loudly objected to the inconvenience. I didn’t hear a word against the demonstrators themselves or the causes they championed. It made me proud of my city and all of its citizens.
Afterwards, as everyone dispersed, returning to their everyday lives, they carried with them the affirmation that they are part of something greater than themselves and that there are others who share their concerns.
Demonstrations are a natural outgrowth of who we are as humans. We are wired to want to be part of a greater community and to contribute to a greater good. When we do this, our self esteem increases and we are energized. When we do this, we are Americans.