March Against Mass Incarceration – A good movement builder

Photo by Ira Birch, me and Phil Wilayto from the Virginia Defenders of Freedom Justice and Equality at the march!

Photo by Ira Birch, me and Phil Wilayto from the Virginia Defenders of Freedom Justice and Equality at the march!

Yesterday I attended the March Against Mass Incarceration, organized by Collective X. The rally met and parade started  in Clay Abner Park. A huge, huge ‘Thank You’ to Collective X for organizing this event over the past few months, and collaborating with so many other local people and organizations to do so.

Some friends at the march- photo credit to Kontra RVA

Some friends at the march- photo credit to Kontra RVA

There were speakers from a variety of anti-prison organizations there. Unfortunately the weather was gloomy, and it wasn’t the best for standing around listening. The marathon also made it difficult for folks to arrive and so the whole thing started late. But it was really great to see so many passionate people and to all get some exercise and networking together.

a picture I took from outside of the crowd at the MAMI rally and march

a picture I took from outside of the crowd at the MAMI rally and march

Two things I struggle to navigate with these types of events are how to best accommodate and be accessible to kids and differently abled participants.  I would love to hear from folks who are kids or struggle physically with marches about what they might want to see changed in the future, or what is possible. I find this complicated, because I think that aside from the empowerment of participants, marches are vital for visibility of movements. I want to see marches with long routes, through highly populated areas. But I recognize that long routes aren’t accessible. I was carrying a fairly heavy medic pack, and I was definitely feeling the burn towards the end of the march.

The heavy medic pack in question- photo credit to Kontra rva

The heavy medic pack in question- photo credit to Kontra rva

There were also folks with dogs (who I love, love, love seeing at these types of events) who ended up having to pick up and carry their dogs. It is also important to note that for many folks bringing a dog isn’t just a fun thing to do, but they might need their dog because it is a trained service dog.

photo credit to Kontra RVA

photo credit to Kontra RVA

Kids also have shorter legs, and sometimes shorter or different attention spans. Figuring out how to truly make events all ages is important. I feel like this may sometimes mean keeping speakers shorter, or providing childcare or activities (like upcoming Wingnut Kid Kits which will be launched at the VPA in January).

Maybe it also means having parade floats kids and dogs and elders and folks with less mobility can ride on? I don’t have all the answers, but I’m pretty sure everyone in Richmond is smart enough to come up with a variety of solutions that will work for a variety of needs. Our movements will be stronger if we can figure out how to include more folks, and what they need to be included. Listening will be a huge part of this.

I had a great time at the March organized by Collective X- always nice to come together with so many friends. Photo credit to Kontra RVA

I had a great time at the March organized by Collective X- always nice to come together with so many friends. Photo credit to Kontra RVA

I was a volunteer street medic, but luckily we had no need for medical help. However, it is definitely good practice to have some trained medics at these events. We took the streets from Leigh to Adams to Broad to Harrison and back down Leigh. There were no arrests or altercations during the march. My understanding is that Collective X had someone or someones who as police liason ensured we would not be attacked by RPD. The bike ushers did a great job of corking intersections and helping to escort the march and keep everyone safe. There were also NLG trained legal observers, and no doubt, copwatchers in attendance.

Richmonders have taken to the street in greater numbers and more often this year than I remember in the past. We’ve had the VPA,  March Against Monsanto, May Day Parade, Halloween Parade, Critical Mass Bike Rides, and this March Against Mass Incarceration.  I hope we keep this momentum up, building our movements, empowering each other, and fighting for a better world.

I also see Richmond getting better at taking the streets and organizing marches and parades. More folks are organizing, and more folks are participating. We need to incorporate things like continuing education and self care into our movements to ensure we can keep this up, and so we can do it all better in the future.

In January of 2013 the Virginia People’s Assembly will meet and March, so stay tuned for information on that (below cut).

Much love, and see you in the streets!

No seriously, in the streets, join us next time! Photo credit to Jack Johnson of FNB and WRIR!

No seriously, in the streets, join us next time! Photo credit to Jack Johnson of FNB and WRIR!

Links to relevant organizations and background info below:

http://instagram.com/collectivex

https://www.facebook.com/events/180673835453514/199755660211998/

https://archive.org/details/MAMIStayInvolved  – Flier from the march

 

http://www.vapeoplesassembly.org/

http://www.nbc12.com/story/23990502/march-against-incarceration-in-richmond

http://shockoebottom.blogspot.com/

Resources on organizing:

http://www.ihollaback.org/how-to-organize-a-protest-or-march/

http://www.toolsforchange.net/2012/10/02/tips-on-how-to-organize-rallies-and-marches/

http://zinelibrary.info/community-justice-and-solidarity

Self Care:

http://zinelibrary.info/love-yourself-babe

http://wingnutrva.org/get-involved-and-help-out/self-care/

http://zinelibrary.info/cosmoqueer-4

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