It’s hard to describe the surge of joy I felt as Gale and I walked over the Vine Street Expressway on Saturday morning, January 21, 2017. We were joining thousands of like-minded souls marching for basic human decency. By the time we arrived around 11:30 am, many marchers had completed the walk from Logan Circle and were leaving. Many more were crowding into Eakins Oval to listen to speakers. The crowd exceeded organizers’ expectations so there were not enough strong loudspeakers. And many speakers spoke too softly. That didn’t matter too much because most of us were there just to march and stand together.
We worked our way through the crowd until we were close enough to see the monitor visible in the back of the picture above, but it was very hard to hear anything until a young African American man gave a rousing intro to a middle-aged Jewish woman. Both of them spoke louder and engaged the crowd in chants of “Resist!” They were followed by an African American woman poet who involved the crowd in chanting the refrain “Resistance.” I’m sorry I can’t give their names because the MC spoke so softly, but at least we heard their message loud and clear.
That more than 2-3 million people* came out on Saturday morning speaks volumes about the hunger for peace and justice in this country and around the world. I took this picture to text to Anne Mei to show her the crowd in Philly. Only later did I notice the sign: “If you want peace, work for justice. Pope Paul VI” This took me back to two periods in my youth. In his Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas writes that without social justice we can only have an unstable state he calls “concord.” “No justice, no peace” was also a strong refrain in the movement combining the struggle for civil rights and opposition to the Vietnam War.
To achieve true peace with justice will require organizing and organization. I’m glad to hear that many of the people who brought people together on Saturday are convening follow-up meetings and internet conversations to create the structures that will be required to realize peace and justice.
“Don’t mourn. Organize.” are commonly said to be the last words of Joe Hill, an organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World. He did express this sentiment in a telegram to IWW leader “Big Bill” Haywood before he was executed in Utah, but they were not his actual last words. In any event, “Don’t mourn. Organize.” expresses an important message at this moment in the struggle for peace and justice. “Organize” means building enduring structures for action, not just flash mobs, however useful they can be. The IWW were syndicalists, not anarchists.
*See 538 check on the numbers. (01.24.17)