Regular readers of my blogs will understand what I am referring to in the subject line of this particular one. My previous blog was about how we had spent the morning doing our usual Sunday outdoor activities in the park. These activities tend to free up the mind, and to remind you that there exists another world independent of us human beings out there, a world that can continue to exist without our meddling. You tend to forget your worldly concerns while you are out there in the park.
We had a completely different agenda and experience on Sunday afternoon. We attended a rally and march organized by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. The march was in the Kentlands, a neighborhood community close to us in Gaithersburg. The Kentlands are actually within walking distance, but I was already tired from the morning’s activities. I was in two minds about going. We also had very little time to rest before departing for the rally. We finally ended up driving to a parking lot at a shopping center close to the site of the rally, and walking the rest of the way.
This was the scene early on, as people were gathering. You can see that it was relaxed atmosphere. The crowd was diverse in every sense of the word.
The place began to fill up by the time the event began in earnest and people began to speak. This speech was by Will Jawando, a Councilmember for Montgomery County.
It was crowded by the time we started marching – after the speeches – but it was possible to practice physical distancing. People were generally good about wearing masks.
The march itself was a laid-back affair.
We did a loop within the Kentlands, probably not more than a mile. We were led in the chants by a person at the front of the march. People were quite relaxed. At one point, there was a person who seemed to disapprove of the subject of the march who stood on the side where the people were walking insisting that “Blue Lives Matter”. Luckily, nobody engaged with him. But it was a good moment for me to actually think about how I should respond if somebody said something like this to me. The response would start with, “Yes, all lives matter, but…”.
We marched past the front of Lowe’s, the big-box hardware store in our neighborhood, and noticed that it was all boarded up, to the point that the massive doors in and out of the building were completely covered up. If you did not know any better, you would not have known that there were doors there. This is an indication of the thought process of the people running the store. They were scared, even though the people marching past were a bunch of suburbanites – all ages, genders, and races. And it was in the middle of the day! It felt like ignorance to me at that point. But, having said that, I have to admit that I myself had also been somewhat ignorant about what to expect at the march earlier on. None of the other stores were boarded up. In fact, some of the employees at Chipotle, a restaurant that we marched past, came out of the store to offer people drinks. A notable moment in the middle of the march was when we all stopped for a minute and knelt on the road while the names of the people who had been killed by police action in recent years was announced over the megaphone.
The march ended back where we started. There were a few more speeches made before the rally came to an end. Throughout the event, the organizers handed out snacks and water to people who needed it. Thankfully, the weather was nice the whole time. Of particular note was the fact that the organizers were all young people. Bravo!
There was a light atmosphere to the whole event. There were police cars parked around the venue of the speeches, but at a distance, beyond the crowds, and they had their flashing lights on. The Gaithersburg city police who were standing around the place where the march started – the place where the speeches were given – were in casual-looking uniforms, wearing biking helmets and shorts. They had their bikes with them. They were also unarmed. They did not look menacing as in some other cases that we had witnessed on TV. They also looked relaxed. The Montgomery County Police who were along the route of the march looked professional and serious. They generally kept a distance from the marchers. I wonder how they all felt about the speeches that were being given, speeches that addressed the impact of the bad behavior of their brethren. The head of the police for Gaithersburg chose the opportunity to speak in solidarity with the marchers.
I have to say that while I enjoyed the new experience, I feel that I was not completely drawn into its spirit. I say this because I was not particularly moved by the experience. I did not learn too much either. I did not get worked up and emotional. I did not get much useful information or motivation to engage further. Perhaps, we should have at least been carrying a a couple of banners ourselves, but we were nervous because this was our first time taking part in a rally. Being wimpy comes easily to some of us. I suppose one has to also consider the overall objective of a peaceful demonstration. In our case, I think it was an expression of solidarity of overall purpose. Other people, especially those who are most directly impacted by the injustices, have more in their hearts. They are crying out to be heard.
I will end with a few more pictures.