One of the most important effects of marches is letting those who march know that there are others who support their ideas. They band people together and are the most basic of grassroots activities.
Marches are normally “bottom up.” They are formed by people who are not government, usually to protest something that government is doing or — in the case of the “March for our Lives” student march against gun violence set for March 24 in Washington, D.C. — not doing.
Governments do not sponsor marches, unless that government is, say, the government of China or Russia or North Korea, where governments sponsor marches all the time that show how much the people support their governments.
When governments get involved, the whole tenor of the march changes. That’s why Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh’s plan to spend $100,000 on a fleet of buses to transport teens to the nation’s capital is so troubling.
When I was 19 years old, my then roommate and I agreed to canvas door to door for New York Sen. Jacob Javits, who was running for re-election. Why? Because it got us a free bus trip to New York. I didn’t know anything about Javits and could not have cared less. But hey, it was a free trip.
Busing kids to D.C. may not be a “routine extracurricular field trip,” as The Sun’s editorial board recently noted, but for many who sign up it will be just a field trip. They won’t be going because they believe in the cause; they’ll be going because it’s a free trip.
The students who left school to march on City Hall last week were believers, for the most part. Some joined, I’m sure, just because it meant leaving school. Yet, overall, the march itself was legitimate and admirable because it was their idea. It was their choice, and they had their reasons.
How legitimate and admirable would it have been, however, if their government and politics teacher had organized it and their art teacher had helped them make the signs?
The reason Mayor Pugh has given for supporting it, too, is flawed: “diversity.”
So, she’s going to use gifts and taxpayer money to take our kids to D.C. so that our kids can be what? Exploited for their race?
I’ve marched in a lot of marches — marches that were for things and some that were against things. But the one thing they had in common was that the people who came to these marches paid their way themselves or found a way to get community contributions from those who were on their side. Maybe they organized people from their school or church and rented a bus. Maybe they walked or drove. Black, white, or brown, old and young, they got there because they felt they had to make their voices heard.
Part of protesting is finding your own way, for your own reasons.
Baltimore government sponsorship of this ride to D.C. demeans our kids and demeans the point of the march. And, even more than that, it demeans the concept that a march is an uprising, a beginning, a statement made by we the people to our government.
Government sponsorship is destructive to these ends.
Lynda Lambert (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Baltimore native and a teacher.