The Art of Protest 

1992Twenty-five years ago I attended my first protest march. I was thirteen years old and told my parents I was going to town to hang out with some friends. Not because they were anti-my beliefs but because they were (rightfully) worried for my safety. I marched with the Anti-Nazi league in Leeds, a city which had a huge Combat 18 presence and where protests had previously turned into riots. 
None of this phased me however and, in my 13 year old hubris I took a wrench from my fathers toolbox and tucked it into my belt, hidden by a t shirt. What I thought I was going to do with it I’ve no idea, but it made me feel safer and grown-up, like I’d planned ahead or something. 
I went alone as I knew the majority of my friends would not be allowed to attend/ were too kind to lie to their parents. When I arrived on-site I grabbed a placard, took a deep breath and started a conversation with the first friendly-looking person I saw. He was a Nigerian man, joined soon after by his wife and baby who quickly realised I had no idea what I was doing and let me march with them. 
There were protesters in their thousands that day. The noise was immense, the sense of camaraderie even greater. We shouted, sang and made our voices heard around the city. I realised that the microcosmic world I knew in school was nothing compared to the world I’d found there. In the throng I wasn’t a weirdo or a freak to be ridiculed, in the throng I was one more fighter and friends were made more easily than I’d ever realised was possible.
The march went unchallenged by the opposition and I arrived home unscathed, with a fresh sense of who I could be. 
2017
Last night I joined 400 other people in a static protest against the current POTUS. My banner hastily made, I joined a soggy rained-on rabble after work and watched as the crowd grew. 
 There were seasoned veterans who had been protesting since the 60s, trade unionists and teens at their first event. Some came to watch, others to speak and a few just for the experience, instagramming their hearts out. But the numbers and the message were what mattered and I feel that by then end of it, everyone left with a sense of triumph; that we can change our world for the better. 

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