Why I March, and Why You Should Too
Issue   |   Tue, 04/03/2018 - 19:54

“Do you really think that you’re going to make a difference? If 800,000 people show up to a march, does it matter that you were there?”

I get asked these questions every time I go out of my way to protest and let my voice be heard, and the March For Our Lives on March 24 was no exception. The Amherst College Democrats put countless hours into planning the trip, but we still received the inevitable questions. And every time, I gave the same answer: “yes.” Yes, of course it matters! Of course I’m making a difference! But in reality, the explanation for my answer is not as simple and not as obvious.

The most obvious explanation is that if everyone thought their voice didn’t matter, no one would show up to protest, and no change would ever occur. Not everyone thinks like this and assumes their voice doesn’t matter thankfully, but it is important to consider nonetheless. Each person must make a choice to let their voice be heard, and each individual’s decision is vital to the success of the group as a whole. No one person can decide to protest on behalf of 800,000 people; the decision lies in the hands of each individual person. If we think that there should be people protesting an issue, it is up to us to go protest. We cannot assume that others will feel as strongly about the issue as we do, and we must not rely on the voices of our peers to represent our own voices indirectly. There is strength in numbers, and we should be part of those numbers.

Another reason to become one of 800,000 is that there are few experiences as inspiring and motivational as a march. At the March for Our Lives, I had the opportunity to listen to dozens of speakers, all of whom were young. The large majority of the speakers were actually younger than me, which sets an important example and lesson: you are never too young to form opinions and become politically active, and you should always take advantage of free speech and use your voice, even if you think you’re too young to be taken seriously. The speakers we heard that day brought many members of the crowd to tears. I was personally moved to tears by Emma Gonzalez, who spoke briefly and then stood silently on stage until six minutes and 20 seconds had passed in total, the same amount of time that the shooter spent firing shots in her high school. I was frightened by how short the six minutes felt; so much can change in such a short period of time. Experiences like this have encouraged me to fight harder for what I believe in and have inspired me to become more politically active.

Many people have told me that their main hesitation is that they don’t believe that marching is the best way to create change. Maybe it’s not, but by attending a march, you have the opportunity to network with people who support the same causes as you. At every major protest I have attended, there have been countless organizations present to learn about or sign up for, and these people that I met and networked with are the people who make real and sometimes significant changes through legislation and policy. For example, at the March for Our Lives, I saw people helping others register to vote. Opportunities like this are a reason to attend a march.

By attending a march, you can become inspired and motivated and turn this into action by networking with people who you can work with in the future. Marches are not just about the protest — they are about the movements behind the protests. So yes, you do make a difference by attending a march. But marches also give you the opportunity continue to make a difference in the weeks, months and years to come.