Yesterday, I marched.
It was a small, peaceful march in downtown Sarasota, Florida. The organizers and nearly all of the marchers were young; late teens and early 20s. Sincere, sweet, and anxious to be heard.
The bullhorn the leaders used to communicate with the crowd was a toy, perhaps borrowed from a younger sibling’s toy box, or maybe rescued from the floor of a young person’s closet, tangled with sneaker laces and old computer games.
But the crowd was forgiving, eager to listen and support their peers, and listened carefully as the young men and women stated their goals for the march – staying peaceful, following the route, wearing masks, social distancing, absolutely no violence.
The last time I saw so many young black and white people together was when my daughters were in high school. But instead of carrying backpacks and laughing as they crossed the campus to their next class, these young adults were serious, intent on making a difference, on making their voices heard, on standing up against injustice. There aren’t many opportunities to do that in sleepy Sarasota during a pandemic, and they were eager to be part of something bigger than themselves.
It’s hot here in Sarasota at the end of May. But most wore black, as requested, and everyone wore a mask. The signs were handmade, many scrawled on poster board by young people sitting on the pavement, waiting for the march to begin.
One young woman carried a sign that I couldn’t read because I walked behind her; she had scrounged a small piece of cardboard from home, so all I saw was the front panel of a Life cereal box. I don’t know if she realized how poignant the reverse of her sign was to those behind her, as the marchers chanted, “Say his name! George Floyd. Say his name! George Floyd.”
The local police were there in a support role, blocking intersections, making cars wait until the entire group had passed. There were well over 200 marchers, all carefully staying on the sidewalk as requested, so it took a long time to cross. Two cops rode bicycles so they could stay ahead of the crowd to block smaller intersections before we arrived.
Some marchers shouted at them. Some thanked them.
At the end, the organizers thanked the group, again through the toy bullhorn. One mentioned that they’d expected maybe 50 people or less, and the crowd cheered. And then everyone left, quietly and calmly, just as they had arrived.