Building on the Climate Change March

The Climate Change March on September 21, 2014 could be a game-changer. Why? Because not only did it draw nearly 400,000 people to the largest climate change demonstration in history, but because it inspired similar marches and demonstrations around the globe to coordinate with it. 2646 events in 156 countries.

Reverend William Barber and his Moral Monday Movement inspired a similar geographically broad demonstration in late August 2014, with a Moral Week taking place in 12 states. The Climate Change marches were much larger in number, but both movements demonstrated the possibilities of coordinated demonstrations in many places at the same time.

There was a third coordinated set of demonstrations this year as well: on September 4, 2014, fast food workers, joined by home care workers, in 150 cities across the United States joined in a national strike for higher pay. Similar coordinated strikes took place several times in 2013, but the one in 2014 was the largest.

So coordinated, geographically broad demonstrations can work, and the bigger they are, the more attention they get. And these large actions make a statement and show that someone is mad as hell and won’t take it anymore.

There is an advantage in having a large demonstration in one venue, because it brings together a large number of people. But there is a disadvantage, too: it costs large sums of money collectively for people to travel from all over the country (or the world) to one place. Having demonstrations take place all over is more efficient financially and brings the world to a far greater number of people, so long as each demonstration is at least significant in size.

For instance, suppose that instead of have 400,000 people in New York City, there were on average 20,000 demonstrators in 50 places throughout the U.S. — all marching together. That would be 1,000,000 people. And that would be enormous. Could it be done? Of course it could. There is a question whether the “Million Man March” really reached that number, but it was large by any standard, and a 20,000 person march (on average) in each of the 50 largest metropolitan areas of the US would be doable. (The 50th largest city, Arlington, Texas, has 375,000 people – so you could have 5,000 there and 35,000 in New York to balance it).

So how would we have a giant demonstration? First, we would want to have leaders who could speak to the important issues of the day: climate change, yes, but income inequality, world peace, justice for all peoples. Reverend Barber would be a perfect choice for justice, Al Gore for climate change, Robert Reich on income inequality, Gloria Steinem on women’s rights, and so on.

Then we could pick a day: how about April 4, 2015? A good spring day across the country, possibly. The date is a good one: it was the day that Martin Luther King died and it’s Holy Saturday, just before Easter. So the day would have instant appeal because it honors a great American leader, and it would certainly be possible to make references to the holy resurrection the next day and the fact that Christ would probably have favored such things as income equality, ending government corruption, and saving the planet. How about gun control, too? The idea is to choose broad topics – getting people out of their narrow silos and into a broader movement.

What title could be used? How about “Take Back Our Country!” or “Bring Back Democracy” or . . . ? The title is open, and suggestions are welcome.

What sort of issues? Select five burning issues that really affect the lives of Americans everywhere. Climate change, for one. Ending electoral corruption from Citizens United and its ilk. Boosting income equality. Health care. Immigration. Justice regardless of race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation. And on and on. Pick subjects that have popular appeal and where change would be meaningful.

But here’s the key: Don’t try to get a big demonstration in one city. Try to get demonstrations all over the United States. Big cities and small, villages and towns. The demonstrations would all start at the same time: 1 pm on the East Coast, noon and 11 am in the Heartland, and 10 am on the West Coast. All the demonstrators would carry the same major signs. (The signs would be designed by a central group and the demonstrators would print their own).This sort of coordination would make it obvious that all the demonstrations were part of a national movement. And it would be very, very difficult for the media to ignore what was happening, because even the local media could cover it.

Now is the time to start organizing. April 4, 2015 is only six months away.

Michael T. Hertz, a retired attorney and law professor, has lived and worked in California, New York, Rhode Island, Maine, Canada and France. His writing subjects include France in the 1960s, post-Civil War America, and present-day California and Canada. Read other articles by Michael T..