I have covered protests before. As a member of the media I tend to feel isolated and distant from the cause and the protesters. The Women’s March in Washington was different. Although I was not a participant in the march, I could see and feel the compassion these marchers had for one another in ways I never have before.
I saw people insisting that someone else take their seat on the crowded metro train, I watched women hand out free hats, I saw people with bags full of water bottles offering them to marchers and police officers working at the march, I saw a man take the jacket off his back and give it to an elderly woman without one. I don’t know if these politicians are sincere when they portray compassion, but I know these marchers are.
As I was walking through the crowd, I was thinking how great it is that we live in a country where we can freely protest, I was thinking how great it was that so many people could come together peacefully. That’s when I heard the other protesters. Another group of protesters came to the march to cause a scene. They stood in the middle of the march with large signs and shouted obscene, mean and hurtful things. It broke my heart when I got closer and realized they were doing it in the name of Jesus. My confidence in the march was restored when I realized that no one was engaging negatively no matter how much the counter protesters tried. Instead the people participating in the march drowned out the hateful slurs with chants of love and compassion.
I was happy to hear a message of nonviolence and acceptance from the speakers at the march. Van Jones specifically acknowledged his own tendency to let anger and fear overtake his emotions that lead him to act out in hate. He condemned those tendencies in himself and begged marchers to show love even to the very people they were marching against. He made a point to remind marchers to love the people who voted for President Trump. It was a message of love and acceptance deeper than I have heard at any political gathering. There were moments I wanted to take off my press badge and become a marcher with them.
Van Jones described the love he wants to see come out of their movement in his speech, it is self-realization like I have never heard from an activist and to me, it made this march stand out.
“Liberals and progressives, we gotta be better liberals and better progressives, we do. I am tired of of herding us say ‘love trumps hate’ but sometimes sound more hateful than Trump. I am tired of hearing us, and i’ve been guilty of it, putting down red state voters and saying they’re all stupid and all uneducated, we have to stop that. Just because someone made a bad vote doesn’t make them a bad person and it’s not going to make us into bad people either I’m not going to let a bad vote have us become bad people. We are going to fight for them anyhow, we’re going to fight for their dignity anyhow. We are going to fight against them on the bigotry, but we’re gonna fight for their justice and their dignity anyhow. This movement has the opportunity to to stand up for the underdogs in the red states and the blue states.”