There was a hint of nostalgia, as these were once the same basketball courts I had played at some 20 years ago. But on Saturday, ralliers gathered at Douglass Park for a cause more meaningful: The March for our Lives C-U protest against gun violence. The event was organized by local high school students, and several community organizations came alongside to promote the march, share information about getting involved, provide hot tea and hot chocolate, and register voters. The lobby and rooms of the Douglass Library filled with students, teachers, and supporters from around the area, greeting each other with hugs, smiles, and handshakes.
Just last week area students participated in a national walkout to protest against the unlawful uses of firearms and lawmakers' lack of action on gun legislation, not just for local incidents, but also on a national scale. Adults leaders gathered in the main lobby to prepare and go over safety procedures, as it was expected that anti-protestors were a possibility. Safety vests were given out and pamphlets with emergency contact information. As it drew closer to rally time (2:30 p.m.) everyone prepared themselves for the weather: temperatures were 18°F with high winds and heavy precipitation. Some were with their children, pets, some were with walkers and wheelchairs.
Protesters made their way out to the basketball courts where student speakers made their speeches, chanted slogans, offered spoken word poetry, and gave statistics about school shootings and their histories. Some held up signs, took photos, and recorded live Facebook and Instagram videos. Others were listening and held each other close for warmth and comfort as heavier wind and sleet picked up. As protestors started their march through Douglass Park and its adjacent neighborhood, a few anti-protestors were in attendance holding homemade signs and chanting their own slogans, too. While snow sleet and high winds picked up and the march went on, the unity and spirits of those in attendance continued. One protestor said while walking by holding her sign with a smile on her face, "What a good day for a protest."
All photos by Kwamé Thomas.