This past Saturday, November 15th, people from across the nation nation came together at over 300 rallies to protest Proposition 8 in California, Florida’s Amendment 2, a similar ballot initiative in Arizona and the anti adoption amendment in Arkansas.
I was one of the Marshals for the event and it was an amazing time. The Marshals arrived about an hour and a half before the rally and people started showing up not long after we did. There were over 1,500 in attendance at the rally and about 1,200 of them marched with us down 16th street mall.
As a Marshal my responsibilities were primarily crowd control. As the crowd grew at the rally, we ran out of space and people were starting to move into the street in front of the Denver City & County Building. The street was still open to traffic, so we had to do out part to avoid accidents.
Once we started marching, we kept the group as together as we could. The line was too long to be seen in its entirety, much to my surprise and excitement. The Marshals would leapfrog and hold the traffic at the different intersections. Understandably, there were a few pissed off commuters, but we had a permit to be there and I personally find my rights being denied to me a bit more inconvenient then being stuck at an intersection for a few minutes.
As Marshals, we also kept the crowd chanting. I would walk up and down as much of the march as I could and lead them in chants. I started losing my voice about halfway through and recruit fellow marchers to help me out:
“What do we want?” “Equal rights!” “When do we want them?” “Now!”
“Gay, straight, black, white – marriage is a civil right!”
“Love, Not Hate! Love, Not Hate! Love, Not Hate!“
About three fourths of the way through the march, people were getting tired and my voice was all but gone, but we pushed forward and I reminded the marchers that as tired as we were, the opposition was far from tired of denying us our rights.
Most encouraging to me were the straight couples with their children who came out to support us. They were scattered all over our rally and just as passionate about equality as the gay community. I was also encouraged by the employees and customers of the different stores along 16th Street Mall that came out on to the sidewalk to cheer us on, some even joining us in our march.
We finally made it back to Civic Center Park, but the group did not disperse as I had expected. People picked up and led their own chants, others just smiled with tear filled eyes amazed at the spectacle they were witnessing. I finally climbed to the top of the nearby stairs and thanked everyone for coming, implored them not to let their passion and their work end here, to contact their elected officials and hold them accountable, vote in the future and stay involved in the movement. A cheer went up, a group of High School students resumed their cheers, and we Marshals were surrounded by grateful marchers who hugged and thanked us for our work.
It was an inspirational experience that I don’t anticipate matching anytime soon. After 4 months on the Obama campaign I was apprehensive and very slow to sign up to work this event, but I am thrilled that I ultimately did.
Equality will come, that much I know.