Post-March Meditation

One of many Women’s March signs in several languages

The last time I marched the streets of downtown Denver was in the 1970s, for 16th of September demonstrations. Corky Gonzalez and the Crusade for Justice organized the first one in 1969, called it “Chicano Liberation Day.” One year I walked behind a flatbed truck of musicians playing “De Colores” over and over. I was learning Spanish and by the end of the march had learned that song. One year I was near the brown berets. They carried a street-wide banner in Spanish that said “It’s better to die on your feet than to go on living on your knees.”

Those were heady years of turmoil and change. There was violence. Radicals run out of patience, like the old cartoon of two vultures, one saying to the other: “Patience hell—I’m gonna kill something.” That’s what the extremes do in times like those, times like these: they kill something. When Obama was elected extremes on the right started the atrocious birther movement. They killed the hope that racism was behind us. On the left now, that angry, impatient tendency is rising. Patience. Hold on.

At the January 21st Women’s March on Denver, a band played this song:

I know the one thing we did right

Was the day we started to fight

Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.

One sign said “SO BAD even introverts are here.” That’s me. Being in the midst of a mass is normally my idea of hell. After standing among those thousands in Civic Center for over an hour, waiting to march, the chill of muddy snow seeping through the soles of my shoes, my fingers aching through my gloves, I had a strong headache coming on. Jammed together, we crept forward one small step at a time. People as far as I could see, blurring borders between park, one street and the next. As we moved, a woman ahead of us warned, “Curb.” Oh, my God, we’re on the street. It was as if we were blind. Yet, for the first time since the 70s, I felt compelled to attend, had no choice.

A chant: Love, not hate, makes America great.

In the fast walking of getting there, I was joyful—eight or ten of us at Coffee at the Point, thirty or forty pink pussy-hatted people at the light rail stop, standing room only on the train, the 16th Street Mall trickling with groups coursing in the same direction, bristling with placards, pouring toward Civic Center, creeks becoming streams becoming rivers at floodtide.

A sign: Build Bridges, Not Walls

“This is historic,” I said to Judy when we reached the teeming edge of the park. “We are participating in an historic event.” Estimates indicate this may have been the largest mass protest ever, world-wide. It was certainly the largest in Denver.

A responsorial chant: What do we want? Equal pay. When do we want it? Yesterday.

After nearly two hours, we had shuffled a block, reached a place on 15th street where we actually could walk, the marching band beside us. Enlivened again, we joined many others in dancing. Let me move and I’m fine.

Women’s March, Denver: Lorax and Dylan Thomas quotes, Standing Rock support

A chant: Tell me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like.

To freely march the streets flaunting signs that say “Keep your tiny hands off my human rights” and “There is no Planet B.” To see the ascendancy of hate, racism, lies, violations of civil rights, threats to environmental protections, all we hold dear—and to be able to protest. Coming by the millions to this march. Basking in the company of like minds. Showing the world we are appalled by the direction our country is taking.

A march changes nothing, however numerous its participants. A march is like a campaign rally, fires up the base. But from enough marches, enough calls to congress people, voting, volunteering and putting your money where your mouth is, yes, change eventually comes. In the early 1970s, you could walk through City and County offices and seldom see a Latino face. Now there are many, and we’ve had Hispanic administrators, politicians, even a mayor, improvements to rights and opportunities for people of color. The Chicano movement spurred a renaissance of poetry and art, a renewed celebration of culture. We are all enriched now because those things happened then.

But here we are again. Hard-fought for gains under the gun.

Sign: I can’t believe we still have to protest this shit.

But we do. We will. Because this is what democracy looks like.

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13 Responses to Post-March Meditation

  1. Denise Gibson says:

    Wonderful. I’m so glad you marched in Denver, as I did in Spokane. Your writing of it is on-the-spot.

  2. Leslie Running Fox says:

    I’m so proud to call you “GRANDMOTHER”

  3. Dorothy says:

    “Estamos contentos DE que seas nuestro vecino.” Just saying. Nice post!

  4. Sara Finnegan-Doyon says:

    So beautiful, Pat! The way you wove in the signs and chants gave me goosebumps, and the end brought me to tears. Yes we will; this is what democracy looks like. Thank you.

  5. winnie says:

    seeing pictures of marches world wide was heartening.
    you have a gift for bringing the atmosphere of the day to the reader.

  6. “…even introverts are here” Ha. Nice account. Sorry I missed the march. I was somewhere between Reykjavic and Denver…

  7. Bob Jaeger says:

    Thanks, Pat, for this account. It heartened us to know that you and others we know were there, and that so many others all over the world were doing the same.

  8. Jana says:

    I love the perspective on the marches of the 70s. Those were right after I moved back to Denver. What days those were and so nice to be reminded that we’ve made great progress! If only we could be assured this time it will end well too. Such a great March!

  9. Barbara Fairchild says:

    The estimate was that there were 15,000 of us marching in Vancouver BC, too. A long ways from Vero Beach. I’m not sure what I expected it to accomplish, but it made me feel good to know that I’m not alone agonizing over this modern horror story. I was in Sarajevo this year and when you look at their 1990’s breakdown you face how fragile a democratic system really is. Scary stuff. Good for you Denver folks. Hopefully we’re all just getting started and sanity and decency will prevail.

    • dubrava says:

      So good to get these reports about the marches in other places: Vancouver, a place Phil and I have thought we’d like to visit. In the week since the march here in Denver, there have been meetings to write postcards to congress and various other events. We’ll see how it goes.

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