ELLIOT ANGELO DAVIS
When I arrived at the Women’s March in Shreveport at the Caddo Parish Courthouse Saturday, I was greeted by a program of the day’s events that dedicated much of its space to a list of rules. These rules emphasized that exercising our free speech is not a fun hobby, but serious business, and that we must remain on the sidewalks while marching.
As the first speaker took the stage, this message that resistance cannot be joyful, and must not be disruptive, was reiterated before anything else. Other speakers asserted that, while coming to the march was good, the important thing was that we voted.
One speaker professed her gratitude that we still have the right to peacefully assemble; I waited for a demand to action – the assertion that this bare minimum of acceptance was not enough, but it never came.
When it began, the march remained dutifully confined to the sidewalk, doing two loops around the courthouse, declaring to everyone that while we were present, we could be safely ignored.
We would not disrupt anything or step outside of the system we were opposing. We would not even take to the barren streets and risk inconveniencing minimal traffic for 15 minutes or so.
This degradation of mass movements and the power of individuals acting together is truly sad and disappointing.
The power of the people, united, and the energy of a crowd, is an immense, beautiful and joyful thing. That power and energy has been the impetus for change in every radical movement, every revolution, every act of liberation throughout history.
When we are made to be grateful that we may pay money for the right – which has always been ours – to peacefully assemble, but only so long as we do not disrupt anything or take to the streets – which have always been ours – our spirit, our energy, our joy and our power is stifled by the very same people who are trying to harness it.
The idea of a crowd of people storming the Capitol now that they’ve “shut down,” of demanding and then building a new system of government that is equipped to hear the people it claims to represent, sounds inconceivable in the modern day.
It is not that simple, we say. And indeed, it’s not that easy. But throughout history, we the people can and have done exactly that. Today we forget the power that we possess as the masses who truly make up the country.
Today, us individuals are made to feel that we don’t have any power unless we participate in the system which is the mechanism for our oppression. When our voices are discarded and devalued, because that same system makes it its goal to do so, we are made to feel that we do not have any power at all.
It’s not true. Yet we are told by our leaders that we must act only within that system, and that other acts of resistance are not legitimate, or are less valuable. But that’s exactly why other acts of resistance are valuable and even necessary.
It’s not true that there is nothing else we can do.
Yes, vote. Raise your voice within the avenues that we have created in our system. But when they don’t hear you, that’s not the end of the matter. Take to the streets, talk to your neighbors, find the joy of resistance, and build a movement that is not dependent on the same structures that confine it.
When ten million people come together all demanding justice, you will be loud enough that they will hear.