This weekend I was able to take a stand for a cause I believe in. It was my first protest and needless to say I was nervous. The organizers had briefed us on how to behave including that it would remain peaceful, that we were to respect any police officers present, and gave us suggestions for chants that got our point across without calling for violence or using obscenities. It was professionally set up and while my friends and I were excited for a week beforehand, we also were concerned that individuals not associated with our group might show up and cause trouble. We didn't want anything to damage the reputation of the organizers, invalidate the protest, or risk ourselves getting arrested if officers thought we were a part of a negative group.
But I learned I had no reason to worry. Around a thousand people showed up at the protest and we were a beautiful, peaceful, diverse bunch. There was a Catholic priest, representatives from a Muslim mosque, local government leaders, college students, and families of every color, religion, and ethnicity. Some signs were funny, some were inspiring, and some were satirical. The speakers were wonderful (although standing near the back I wished the microphone was a little louder). Everyone was full of energy. People were sharing personal stories and some were crying. But it always remained peaceful.
Law enforcement was present and we thanked each officer we passed while marching and those that watched over us at the capital building for protecting us. The leaders of the protests handed out information with contact information for senators and lists of charities we can donate to.
The entire experience was very motivating and inspiring. It was created to be more than just a one time event and I think it accomplished that goal. Whether change is made or not remains to be seen, but until then I am going to continue going to protests, continue contacting my representatives, continue volunteering, and most importantly continue to be an ally for oppressed people.