A Protester Awaits Her Paycheck
The Costs of Speaking Out
I must be doing something wrong. If I were doing things right, you see, I’d have earned some money last month when I went to DC to participate in the People’s Climate March to call attention to issues of climate change, and to demand government action in the face of its catastrophic effects.
Despite news reports and tweets about paid protesters who disrupt rallies and town hall events, and populate marches including the Women’s March in January, Tax Day protests earlier in April, and more, I have yet to receive my paycheck.
Instead, I shelled out hundreds of dollars, including train fare, hotel, meals, and incidentals (including about $20 I spent on magic markers, glitter pens and other materials to make a protest sign). On top of that, I missed attending at professional conference, where I could have made valuable contacts that would have helped me earn more money in my budding new business. (Additional hidden costs also included some very sore feet and a mild sunburn.)
But for me this was really no big sacrifice, as I was easily able to afford the costs. Still, I couldn’t help but notice the much greater sacrifices made by those I marched side by side with in the record-breaking near-100 degree heat. (And no, that last little detail was not lost on those of us who were marching for climate action.)
Some of the people I met as we streamed down the streets of the nation’s capital were war veterans, mothers with babies (some still nursing) and small children, college students, and people in wheel chairs. Then there were all the people, from quite young to quite old — who travelled overnight in buses they’d boarded in the wee hours of the morning, or even the day before, and would re-board that evening after a long day of marching to return home sometime the following day or evening. Many, if not most, of these people had to show up at work Monday morning having slept (or not slept) on the cramped seat of a school bus or coach for two or more nights in a row.
And then there were all the people I met who were not marching because they couldn’t afford to. That weekend I met taxi cab drivers, wait staff, custodial staff, hotel employees and more, who, when they learned why I was in DC, thanked me for being in the streets when they could not, as they couldn’t take the time off from work.
Coming out to march is not only expensive, it’s also exhausting. (And energizing and inspiring and fun, too.) But despite the thrill of being surrounded by some 200,000 people who care enough about their country and the future of our planet to make the sacrifices needed to show up and make their voices heard, I’m sure most of us on that sweltering day would have preferred to be in an air-conditioned movie theater, or in the comfort of our own homes with our families or friends.
So, no, the people I met at the march were making sacrifices, not profits. They were literally putting their sweat and tears (there were plenty of the former and some of the latter), if not their blood, on the line for what they believe in.
The news media, which largely ignored or downplayed this particular march, missed a beautiful American story unfolding on the streets of our nation’s capital. It’s the story of people motivated by a deep love and concern for the planet that supports the lives of people of all races and classes and cultures at a historical moment when the rich and powerful are grabbing more and more for themselves, with flagrant disregard for the needs of average Americans, let alone the most vulnerable among us.
Nonetheless, if you know who’s actually funding those paid protesters, send them my way. I know a lot of people who could use a few extra bucks for childcare so they can leave home to exercise their First Amendment rights, or for missed wages from taking time off from work to carry a sign down Pennsylvania Avenue, or to buy a seat on a bus to DC next time.
Even a few bucks to purchase some new walking shoes would help — to replace the ones that might be getting worn out. Because the fact is, we’ve all got a lot more marching to do.
What does Dreaming have to do with Climate Change? Please visit 350 Dreamers on Facebook to learn more about how we use dreams, prayers, and visioning to inspire action and help heal our environment.
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Originally published at tziviagover.com on May 6, 2017.