by Michelle Palmer
On Saturday, March 24th, I joined hundreds of others in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and hundreds of thousands across the country (and the world) in protesting gun violence. It was my first “real” protest march (and Lord willing, not my last). As I drove down, feeling a little anxious, I thought a lot about whether or not it’d be worth all the effort. “Why am I doing this? Will it matter that I’m there? I hope the letters don’t fall off my signs. Where am I going to park?”
Now, I would loooooove to have the time and energy to dig really deeply into the gun control debate and lay out a clear summary of the arguments. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. In the time that I actually have, I wouldn’t be able to do justice to the complexities of the issue. Instead, I’m just going to tell you why protesting is a good idea based on the experience I had at March for Our Lives and give you some resources if you want to learn more about the gun control debate. Channon has already discussed The Power of Peaceful Protest, but here, I want to share my first-hand experience and give you some ideas about why protesting is a pretty darn good idea.
- It pushes the conversation forward. In the wake of many school shootings, the script is the same. It’s a tragedy, we lament, people call for stronger gun control, others tell them it’s not the right time to politicize the tragedy, and nothing changes. In the wake of Parkland, there has been a momentum shift – more people talking about the issues, more people joining organizations like Everytown and Students Demand Action. Protests make a splash, they make headlines, and they get people talking.
- It’s a visible statement to politicians. Calling your politicians is great, showing up at the voting booth is ESSENTIAL, but I think showing up, in public, makes an impactful statement that the constituents have a passionate and vested interest in change. (Also, at our event, there were at least a dozen volunteers getting people registered to vote.)
- It gives people a platform to speak. In Baton Rouge, we had speakers (students, parents, politicians) who were able to share their hearts for change and their plans for action. The speeches given at the DC march were heard by thousands on the day and millions more after the fact. Here are a couple of the most moving: Emma Gonzalez, Naomi Wadler, D’Angelo McDade.
- It’s a visible statement to the public. When I told people I was going to march in Baton Rouge, a lot of folks gave me the “are you sure you wanna do that?” look. Like, “It’s Louisiana….how many people do you think will be there? Is it gonna be just you or what?” But there were nearly 1000! I think it was even bigger than the organizers anticipated. It shows the skeptics that there are people who care. And for every protester, there are others who want change but aren’t able to march.
- It’s good for the protesters. How?
- It’s encouraging! To see that you’re not alone. To see that other people care.
- It’s energizing! The chants and speeches can get you pumped up in the moment, and it’s awesome, but even more than that, the experience energizes you to keep fighting.
- Networking! Our event had several organizations represented. Moms Demand Action, Indivisible, and PSN Baton Rouge were all on hand and signing people up to get involved.
- It’s kind of like making your bed (which I don’t). I’ve heard it (or read it) over and over; making your bed really makes a difference. “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.” That’s how I felt about marching. Will marching one time make a difference? Maybe not immediately, but it’ll help me feel like I’ve made a contribution, which will encourage me to keep making contributions, like calling my senators and writing this blog post and making it to the polls every single time there’s an election.
- And last but not least, you get a lot of steps on your step tracker.
So no, protesting isn’t super convenient, and it’s not my favorite way to spend a Saturday, but it’s important and awesome and worth it.
And if you go to a protest, here are my (super practical, mostly obvious) tips:
- Wear comfortable shoes and sunscreen.
- Bring water, sunglasses, and a poncho. (In other words, be prepared to handle whatever Mother Nature throws at you.)
- If you have trouble standing for long periods of time, bring one of those nifty portable stools. (I seriously could’ve used one.)
- If you can’t make a sign, go anyway. There will be extras. And even if there aren’t, your presence without a sign is a billion times better than nothing!
- Speaking of signs, white poster boards aren’t the same color on both sides. You think they are, but they’re not. Finally, I wrote very briefly about gun control last year. You can read the full post here, but the gun control bit is re-posted below:
The issue of gun control has come up (again) in light of the Las Vegas tragedy, as it so often does.
[SIDENOTE: If this seems like a particularly controversial issue for us to be tackling without much context, consider this: The majority of Americans are in favor of sensible gun control measures (reports here and here). And according to the CDC, there are an average of 33,880 gun deaths per year from 2011-2015, and those numbers are on the rise for 2016 and 2017.]
When I looked for organizations working for gun control, I found several lists, but there were four organizations that appeared on every list I saw. (This article from Bustle is particularly helpful.) These organizations are linked below, and each website has an action section.
- Everytown (article: Whatever Happened to Michael Bloomberg’s Anti-Gun Crusade? It still exists—and it’s starting to work.)
- Moms Demand Action (article: These Women Are the NRA’s Worst Nightmare)
- The Brady Campaign
- Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
I also came across an article that I found particularly interesting, “What If We Made Gun Culture Uncool Like We Did Cigarettes?” Here’s an excerpt:
“On the legislative front it seems America has made its choice and there is little chance for legal reform in the near future except at the margins deemed acceptable by the gun industry and a current generation of gun owners who believe that ‘things happen’ is an appropriate reaction to gun deaths. When lawmakers can’t lead, a social solution is certainly worth a shot.”