Hundreds of thousands of people marched past the White House to the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. on Sunday for Equality Across America’s National Equality March.
Numerous Events were scheduled to take place over the course of the weekend in coordination with the march, including several workshops, social events, and rallies. On Saturday, I attended a workshop with speakers Cleve Jones and Sherry Wolf. Cleve Jones has been a well known activist in the Gay Rights Movement for a long time. He was Harvey Milk’s assistant, portrayed by Emile Hirsch in the movie Milk. Sherry Wolf is a socialist who wrote a book titled Sexuality and Socialism. The book discusses ways in which sexuality is viewed controversial, and shows ways in which socialism can solve some disputes.
My family and I arrived early and got a table directly next to where Sherry Wolf and Cleve Jones were going to speak.
Both gave overviews of different aspects of the struggle for equal rights. They discussed opposing strategies from within the movement, President Obama’s lack of action, and other issues surrounding the movement. They basically clarified the main reasons for the march: Obama needs to act now to make steps towards full equality in every form, in all fifty states, and the “full plate” excuse is not a good one. The speakers reminded that Kennedy didn’t say he had a full plate during the civil rights movement, and basic civil rights can never be pushed aside.
That night, due to an accidental mass text message sent out, we were able to watch Obama address the Human Rights Campaign with some of the top organizers for the march, and leading activists in the forefront of the gay rights movement. Among them were co-directors of the Equality Across America Kip Williams and Robin McGehee, and well known activist David Mixner, who was the initial one to call for a march in his blog. They all spoke their feelings about the march, as well as their expectations for Obama. As Obama Spoke, David Mixner did not applaud once. He viewed the speech as a lot of talk, and no action.
The next morning the march began to organize. Several blocks of Fifteenth Street up to McPherson Square shortly flooded with people of all different races, religions, genders, and sexualities from all over the country as well as Canada. The march was scheduled to begin at 12:00 but started about an hour later. During that time, the crowd got bigger and bigger, and gained more and more energy. A rainbow stretched across the sea of people, just minutes before the march began.
The crowd slowly but surely started marching toward the White House where it stopped to protest To my surprise, many people were standing on the edge of the White House fence without one secret service agent objecting. Some people waved flags or raised signs toward the White House, and one lesbian couple stood on the fence wearing wedding veils and kissed.
The march continued down Pennsylvania Avenue, toward the Capitol Building. Several chants were used by the crowd, but the most popular one that I heard was:
“What do we want?”
“When do we want it?”
Several signs appeared often, among them “a right delayed is a right denied,” “Civil Rights now,” “Marriage is a civil right,” and “Let my moms marry.”
Several Churches, clubs, and political organizations came in support of the cause.
After over 20 blocks, the March arrived at the Capitol Building. After I got there at least 7 blocks worth of additional people hadn’t entered the mall.
Kip Williams and Robin McGehee made their words to the crowd, claiming the march a complete success.
Cleve Jones, David Mixner, and many other leaders in the LGBT movement gave thanks to the marchers and shared their thoughts on action that needs to be taken. Judy Sheppard spoke, urging the crowd to do more. Judy Sheppard has become an inspiring leader of the movement after her son fell victim to a violent, hateful death because of his sexuality.
Several celebrities spoke, including Cynthia Nixon and Lady Gaga. The Cast of the Broadway revival of “Hair” sang a more popular song from the musical “Let the Sun Shine In.”
Gay Rights activists left pleased. The march was a success. Organized on a completely grass roots level, the march included a more diverse array of people than ever before, and more young people than ever before. Many speakers noted this fact and suggested that it is the sign of a new and powerful generation of activists.