Reflection on March to End Poverty

On Monday, July 18, the opening day of the Republican National Convention here in Cleveland, somewhere between 1,500 and 2,500 people gathered at East 45th and Superior for a rally and march to "End Poverty Now." The march was put together by Organize Ohio and was joined by a wide variety of groups, from staff at NEOCH to women’s health advocates to revolutionary communists to anarchists. At the rally before the march, people handed out flyers about events happening later in the week and talked to people about their group’s message. Other groups went around offering food and water to those attending.

Women from Codepink (pictured here), a grassroots organization founded to oppose the Iraq War, danced around in head-to-toe pink ball gowns and held satirical signs such as “Minimum Wage: $0” and “Tax the Poor”. Another woman from NARAL Pro-Choice America walked around on stilts for the entirety of the rally and the march! On the rally stage, several activists from around the country spoke and inspired the crowd, and there were also performers singing songs of struggle and social justice. Especially exciting was a performance by Prophets of Rage, a band made up of Rage Against the Machine's bassist Tim Commerford, guitarist Tom Morello, and drummer Brad Wilk, with Public Enemy's Chuck D and DJ Lord and Cypress Hill's B-Real. They gave a high-energy performance that pumped up the crowd and got us ready to march.  There were also women facing deportation and those struggling with poverty in America.

After the performance we took to the streets, heading downtown towards the convention under the hot 85-degree sun. As we walked, most of us held signs against poverty, racism, sexism, and of course Trump – some especially memorable ones were “Trump Hates Kittens”, “Lizard People for Trump”, and “Deport Trump’s Hate & His Wife”. There were also signs opposing both major political parties.  Many groups led chants, the Fight for 15 group seeking an increase in the minimum wage chanting “What do we want? 15! If we don’t get it? Shut it down!” Also heard were the familiar cries of “No justice, no peace” and “Black Lives Matter.” A few times during the march it seemed that different groups were competing with each other in their chants – the Fight for 15ers shouting over the communists, the communists shouting over the socialists, etc.

Each time things smoothed over peacefully, and in general the tension within the march itself was minimal. Although there were disparate political views represented, we were all bound together by our shared belief in the necessity of ending poverty. And despite the fact that a group of open-carrying West Ohio Minutemen were marching only blocks away, we luckily avoided running into any such groups. Throughout the whole route we were followed by and surrounded on both sides by police officers on bikes. Thankfully there were no issues between officers and protestors, and everything remained peaceful. By the time we reached Chester Commons, most of us were sweaty, sunburnt and exhausted. A few people stayed around to speak to reporters and give a few more chants, but most of the group dispersed.

Ultimately, I think that the march was a success and I am encouraged by the media coverage that I’ve seen. Showing people that there is an alternative narrative to many of the public discussions on poverty is important, and the more people who can hear the message that there are solutions to poverty the better. I believe we are all extremely relieved that everything remained peaceful, especially considering the tension that our country is currently experiencing. Hopefully we can continue to push the message of ending poverty onto both the Republican and Democratic parties in a peaceful way moving forward.

by Megan Shanklin

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