Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Reporting back from Raleigh and the Mass Moral March

The signs I carried on February 8.
This past Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover, I reported back on my experience at the February 8 Moral March in Raleigh, NC.  I wanted to share some of my perspective here, too.

First of all, I must say, it was an incredible experience to be a part of the Moral March. What an amazing thing for so many people to come together to lift up the people of North Carolina! The estimates for the number of marchers vary.  The lowest number I've seen is 35,000 people, and the highest number I've seen is 100,000 people. I think it's safe to say that there were 70,000 people there... an incredible number of folks to come together in a state capital to say "enough". Enough of the war on the poor, the war on women, the war on LGBTQ persons, the war on the healthcare, the war on education, the war on voting rights... We were there to say to the legislators in North Carolina that it's time for moral governing! It's time to be on the side of the people and civil rights.

The Moral March was organized by the Rev. Dr. William Barber II and the NC NAACP (of which he is the president) as well as the Historic Thousands on Jones St. People's Assembly Coalition.  Like many other clergy from all different religious traditions, as well as leaders of non-profit organizations and other citizen-leaders, I responded to the call to join the February 8 march.  Specifically, in my case, I responded to the call I saw on the Standing on the Side of Love website
My view at the rally after the march.

It was a privilege to be there, and I thank the members of my congregation for their generosity and flexibility, which made it possible for me to go.

There were approximately 1,500 Unitarian Universalists participating in the march, which is an impressive turnout. We came from all over the United States, as did many others of the marchers.

As I say, the marchers came from all different religious traditions. And they came from groups as disparate as Move to Amend, Greenpeace, Planned Parenthood, Veterans For Peace, and many more.

Looking in the other direction, my view at the rally...
In addition to marching to send a message to the legislators in North Carolina, we were also there to let other legislatures in other states know that we, the people, are paying attention, and we care.  We were there to let the federal government know, too, that we, the people, are paying attention, and we care.

The mainstream media did not cover this important event as they should have. There was some mainstream media coverage, to be fair. I saw this article in the USA Today, and there were a few others, such as this article in the Washington Times. But to some extent there was a mainstream media blackout.  The alternative press did a better job. There are many alternative press articles to which I could link; a few are the ThinkProgress article; The Nation article; and this Huffington Post article (there were others in the Huffington Post as well).
I am to the right in this photo, lining up for the parade.

The mainstream media blackout reminded me of the Occupy movement and the dearth of coverage.  In fact, as someone who participated in the Occupy movement (I was a regular visitor and a sometime-participant in Occupy Boston, through Veterans For Peace and UU connections), it was impossible not to be reminded of Occupy.  First, the amazing diversity of protestors reminded me of Occupy -- the amazing range of concerns. Second, the great energy and spirit of the event. And third, yes, the lack of media coverage appropriate for such momentous occasions.

There are differences, of course, too. The Moral Mondays and the Moral March are fairly traditional protest movements, asking the government powers-that-be to change their hurtful and regressive policies.  Moral Mondays and the Moral March have some demands; basically, overturning the hateful and regressive policies that have recently been put into place.  Occupy, on the other hand, was a more sweeping protest. Occupy was talking to the government, sure; but it was also critiquing large corporations and even capitalism as it has been practiced in recent decades in this country (including critiques of "corporate welfare").  That, along with the encampments themselves, made Occupy more controversial than the Moral March. Also, Occupy famously asked "What is your one demand?" and intentionally never answered the question; the movement seemed more focused on removing the veils. One sign I saw at Occupy Boston summed it up for me: "America: This Is Your Intervention". (I am currently taking a great course at Andover Newton Theological School called "Occupy History: Leadership for Social, Economic, and Religious Transformation", which also helps me to remember and analyze my Occupy experience.)

The Moral March and the Moral Mondays are patterned on the Civil Rights Movement. You can see that connection in this promotional video for the march:

I want to close this post by sharing some footage of the march, which gives a better sense of its size, diversity, and spirit: