2018-03-26 – In early May of 1970 I went on my first protest march. I was 18 years old. The march was to protest the American bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War and the May 4, 1970, campus murders of protesting students by the mobilized Ohio national guard at Kent State University. [Song by Neil Young, CSNY] [Cover by Jon Batiste]
It was a frightening time. Forty-eight years later, we’re in another frightening time, and we’re marching again. And again it’s the 18-year olds.
Saturday, Nat, and Abi, and I joined the #MarchForOurLives in Union Park to protest gun violence and the complicity of our politicians with the gun lobby. The organizers of the march were all so young. I don’t know if anyone on the program could legally buy you a drink.
Union Park is a common site for political demonstrations in Chicago. At the south end of the park is a memorial for the Haymarket massacre of May 4, 1886, which occurred during a strike for the eight-hour work day. I remembered that the memorial was there and asked Nat if he remembered, but I could remember exactly. I see it now on the map. The surrounding neighborhood is home to a lot of labor unions. As we marched we saw two that my brothers-in-law Tim and Terry belong to—the pipefitters and the plumbers. I didn’t realize this, but the park was the site of immigration reform protests in 2006—which is weird since I was in that march, but I joined as the march entered the loop.
The program for the day was very sad to me. We were a long way from the stage, but we could see it on two jumbotrons at the north end of the park. The saddest was a speech given by a seventh-grade girl who spoke about the violence in her neighborhood, how her brother was shot in the head and suffered brain damage, and that she was there to speak for women. Other kids talked about how they became involved. There were raps and traditional singing and dance. I was able to find a video of the Hinsdale Central High School’s poetry clubs performance of their own composition “Trigger Warning.”
Of course, there were people of all ages in the crowd. And just like 48 years ago, the communists were out in force hawking their 1970s-vintage newspapers. I stopped to talk to a few because they weren’t a new generation. They were the same people who hawked the same newspapers when I was 18. Today, they are in their 60s and 70s. I talked to one grandma who was handing out cards advertising some sort of event featuring Bob Avakian, who was the head of the Revolutionary Communist Party back in the ‘70s and apparently is still. I told her about my first march in 1970. She said she was there. I said that I thought it was nice to see the kids taking the lead—just like in 1970. She said, no, we-kids were the real adults back in 1970. Whatever. They were crazy then. I hope they had some good years in between, because they are crazy again.
I’m rambling. What can you say when a nation allows its kids to be gunned down year after year as a sacrifice to the god of the second amendment? Sometimes there are no words. Sometimes silence is more eloquent. So here, from the Washington, DC march is Emma Gonzalez silence.
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