Why I march
I’ve been to many demonstrations in my life because it beats sitting at home feeling so helpless and hopeless about the state of the world. I find that marching with others, who feel the same way, is empowering, supportive and life affirming.
The first March I went on was at the age of 17, when the campaign for nuclear disarmament was a big deal, and thousands gathered all over the globe to protest the frightening proliferation of destructive nuclear weapons. Since then, I have marched for the climate, for our planet, for the rights of women. And now I march for peace.
I join the crowds because, for me, the concept of war seems to be so totally wrong and unacceptable. Given the issues facing us right now, adding war to the mix takes us so many, many steps backwards in our universal quest to make the world a better place.
Last week I marched with the people of Gaza; for the men, women and children who are being bombed out of existence as you read this; for the destruction of a place, its people and its future. I didn’t march alone. There were thousands in the street calling for an immediate ceasefire, for justice and for an enduring peace in a place that experiences ongoing violence, occupation and persistent persecution.
The March began on Parliament Hill where thousands of diverse and peaceful people gathered: families with kids, people alone, friend groups. I was in the minority, as a white woman, and felt honoured to be walking alongside those who may well have families and friends caught in the conflict, not knowing if they will live or die. Arabic and other languages swirled around in the afternoon air. Emotion choked me at the back of my throat as I thought about the terrors people were currently experiencing.
There were several inspiring speakers who must have damaged their vocal chords making themselves heard in the lively crowds. Representatives spoke from the Indigenous youth movement, from independent Jewish voices, from the labour movement and from others.
Phew, no sign of any counter demonstrators, until I spotted three men dressed in the Orthodox Jewish tradition making their way forward to take the centre stage. But rather than opposition, one of them introduced himself as a Rabbi, and they gave their thoughtful and unconditional support to the people of Gaza.
Then we paraded through the streets of our nations’ capital, chanting things like “Ceasefire Now” as we walked. The local police lurked in the background, but the atmosphere was congenial, extremely peaceful and organized.
It was sobering to see many young children alongside their parents. Instead of playing or hanging out with friends, they were marching enthusiastically and chanting things like: “No more bombs” or “Stop the killing now.”
I got back home and re-read the peace pledge from the organization World Beyond War:
“I understand that wars and militarism make us less safe. Rather than protect us, they kill, injure and traumatize adults, children and infants, severely damaging the natural environment. They erode civil liberties and drain our economies, siphoning resources from life-affirming activities. I commit to engage in and support non-violent efforts to end all war and preparations for war and to create a sustainable and just peace.”
I stuck it on my fridge.
And I will March again.
Hilary Jocelyn lives in Lascelles, QC.