Protests should be the start of our activism, not the end

From civil rights and women’s suffrage to anti-war and LGBTQ rights, marches have been an essential part of U.S. history, allowing people to express their political sentiments in public so that the government takes notice. Here in D.C., it seems like there’s a march for a different cause every time a student walks outside. In January, both the March for Life and the second Women’s March took place just one day after the other. The right to assemble peacefully is protected under the First Amendment, giving us all the opportunity to loudly stand up for our rights.

By marching, we can bring attention to what we stand for, whether it be protesting the repressive political regime in Togo or fighting for the protection of young immigrants in the U.S. If it weren’t for these marches, the general public’s attention wouldn’t be on them. But students can’t stop after creating a sign and walking in a protest. They need to go beyond to get people’s attention.

Marching is not the end of the movement, it’s the beginning.

With GW as the 10th most politically active campus in the nation, seeing students initiate protests and lead demonstrations is common. But what is often missing is the follow through. Students need to continue the conversation beyond just marching, and be politically active in other ways, from getting involved in government themselves to petitioning their local legislators.

Marching is not the end of the movement, it’s the beginning. Students need to ensure that when the whole world’s eye is on them, they act. These protests give people courage, as the movement’s visibility allows for both its opponents and supporters to see its strength in numbers, such as how the DACA marches eventually resulted in the government shutdown. And with such courage, one cannot sit down and think the work is done. They need to stand up and use their voices to educate, spread awareness and run for local office.

While it might seem that marching gets the work done, there are essential aspects of activism that are not covered. Some of the most important issues that anybody can play a role in are education and legislation. For a movement to have motion, it needs the voices of people behind it. The only way to obtain such voices is through the education of people, by learning about the movement and spreading awareness, like with campaigning or fundraising, which will then allow for legislative changes. For a movement to grow, people need to spread information on what the actual movement is about.

After the March for Science in D.C. last April, most participants went back home, content to have advocated the importance of science, and essentially called it a day. But after a year under President Donald Trump’s administration, science and its regulations are still being pushed back and ignored. With all the media’s attention on science, now is the time to act. Students should go out and educate themselves and others, call their legislators and even run for local office. They should become aware of new political initiatives as a start and campaign for local representatives. Change doesn’t happen in the streets alone, but through taking that energy off the streets and into a government office, both local and national.

Marches can be inspirational. They are an essential freedom U.S. citizens have.

And this is true for so many D.C. marches. Rather than just being a “one year anniversary,” the women’s march this year focused on taking people to the polls and encouraging women to run for office. With the midterm elections coming up, speakers emphasized not just the importance of women voting, but of running a campaign. The march’s creators used the momentum from their followers to set out the next steps, participating in the election. In the same way, one must go out and continue supporting the causes they support by following through on issues they protest.

Marches can be inspirational. They are an essential freedom U.S. citizens have. Marching is a way for us to feel like a participating member of our government’s scrambled democracy. But to actually be a participating member, we must take this passion we feel while marching, and head on to fundraise, educate and spread the word. We must start to create a change inside the government, not just demand it from outside.

Alejandra Velazquez, a freshman majoring in political science, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

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