whats up yall. i attended the oklahoma city march for our lives event today and thought tellin you about the sights and sounds may help me organize my own thoughts on it.
i rolled in a little late. blame anxiety, blame starbucks drive thru takin 15 minutes to get me a damn tall mocha, whatever, it’s all good. the event started at the oklahoma county election board, which is about a mile and a half from the state capitol. i figured out where i could park, hopped out, and hurried to catch up.
lincoln blvd is long, hilly, and straight, so it was near-impossible to tell how big the crowd i was trying to join was. i saw a couple of blue-vested ACLU legal observers lagging behind, but never saw any others as i moved through the march. (i probably ended up dead in the middle. they walked p slow.) the police presence was pretty understated, mostly state troopers who didn’t get out of their vehicles, a couple of dudes on foot in bulletproof vests & no hat when we actually reached the steps of the legislature. people were mostly talking among themselves, carrying their signs, occasionally stopping strangers to compare signs and take photos. we had gone a full 20 blocks before the road curves, to go around the capitol, when it became clear how big the march was. a few hundred at least, not bad for a gun control rally in deep red state oklahoma.
that curve was also where i walked with a state trooper’s front bumper not 2 feet from my calves, shoulder to shoulder with other marchers. for some idiot reason they insisted on keeping the right lane free of marchers. not for traffic, though he said it was–maybe 2 cars came through and that was behind a cop car and very very slowly–this was purely so the cops could drive up and down beside the demonstration. they kept the lane open even after we reached a point in the road where it was more or less blocked off. to enforce this one trooper actually cut across people to forcibly mash us together into the far left lane, driving himself in the center. it didn’t escalate–this was a bunch of families, church groups, and white liberals–but it made me nervous as hell. allowing any traffic next to marchers brought me shades of heather heyer immediately.
fuck this guy.
the chanting didn’t start until after he had pulled this maneuver, which i see by the time stamps was a full half hour into the march. there was some WE CALL BS coming from the organizers at the front, but we couldn’t really hear that and the self-sustained stuff didn’t kick in til after we were confined to one lane of the road and feeling antsy. gj cop! a girl who couldn’t have been more than 8 felt the need to kick up “show me what democracy looks like” a few times herself after that had happened once, and when the crowd around her was ready to reply, loudly, i thought she was gonna throw a fit she was so happy. what a great moment for her. people started actually talking to each other outside the groups they had come with after that.
when we reached the steps we were greeted, bizarrely, by a traditionalist Christian group, I’m not sure which, holding signs about how this gun violence is all a sign of the world turning against god and handing out literature. i think they were supporting the movement, in a general way, but it was kind of hard to tell for sure, and their primary goal was obviously proselytizing (and baking in the sun under their traditional all-black and hats and hoods). it wasn’t like rolling up the south oval back at OU one day and coming face to face with a westboro baptist church fuckhead though.
we had a minute of silence, nothing like what you’ve seen on TV today from Queen of #theTeens emma gonzalez, it wasn’t that powerful, but i appreciated the first speaker taking time to give us a tidbit of each MSD victim’s life, making sure they were remembered as more than a name and an age in the newspaper. and after that things got pretty vanilla tbh. there were probably 10 speakers, i didn’t count, one was either Indian or Pakistani (and he owned, shoutout to Robbie (?) Patel, that dude is going places) but the rest were white, and mostly they were women and girls. they were teens except one woman who had survived a shooting 30 years ago. she told us about her experience and what PTSD has done to her, which was a bold and powerful speech, except she kept saying “woke” in earnest. white people, please, stop saying “woke” unironically. (you don’t have to tell anyone else this because they quit doing it two years ago.)
the loudest response lines were jabs at trump which was extremely disappointing. when a later speaker named off incidents that predated him, pointing out that this is not an issue of one president, it was quiet. they called for people to give up on their love affairs with guns, they called on people to register and vote, they outlined a few specific bits of legislation in the current session here in oklahoma that suck ass, and that was pretty much that. nothing radical here, just folks chanting “Vote them out.”
the nra was referred to in passing, the republican party only mentioned in the context of “this should be a bipartisan issue,” the democratic party’s failure to do anything on the national level, totally ignored. that people are dying so the rich can stockpile more money, that the nra uses fear of nonwhite people and immigrants and leftists to do it, never mentioned. there were no black speakers, though i did see a few BLM activists milling about, one with a sign highlighting someone who had been shot to death in a private prison. i wish we could have heard about that. M4OL is focused on school shootings, which makes sense, given that it’s a student reaction to school shootings. but gun violence isn’t limited to mass shooting events. that’s not even the main source of gun violence. domestic violence–no mention. police killings–no mention. suicide–no mention. accidental injury from shotguns was mentioned. there’s not a moment for trayvon? nra contributions to (the term-limited) governor mary fallin were mentioned. there’s not a moment for calling out those greedy suits themselves and asking ourselves what exactly their purpose is? ah well.
and it took the youngest speaker, an 11 year old dude (whose name literally included “poindexter,” i am not making that up), it took him to say this is not a mental illness problem. to almost no response. stigma is real, and to hear that crowd bellow for gun control, but fail to see that mental illness, which affects all genders and yet somehow almost all mass shooters are men, for this crowd not to get that is scary. who you think they’re gonna weaponize a gun control law at? the white dude on his 13th DUI who still has a driver’s license because he can afford a lawyer and the legal fees and the court costs, and his uncle knows the judge? or the black activist who is “depressed” and organizing a demonstration? come on, yall. think. to be fair, none of the speakers mentioned mental illness, though one did refer to the MSD shooter’s “signs of mental instability” which, based on what’s been reported, is pretty bulletproof language. it doesn’t take mental illness to become unstable and not everyone who has a mental illness becomes unstable. that’s fine. the crowd needs to catch up though.
M4OLOKC was a short, hot, peaceful event. probably we shouldn’t expect these kids who are focused on school shootings to take on whether we should have access to the same instruments of power as the powerful have (or whether those power structures themselves, in turn, should have weapons), or how capitalism is killing us, but that only one speaker felt she could even say “white men” referring to the power structure left a pretty gaping hole in the rhetoric. certainly i don’t expect some teenagers to have thought through all the theory and far-reaching implications of their very basic demands. there’s still people who we did not get to hear though: the same people we never get to hear. the parkland kids are actively elevating black voices and the leadership group itself includes people under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella. the whiteness of our group was discouraging. ah well.
we should probably expect a little better organization around the supporting groups, though. i saw people hanging out with clipboards ready to register voters, specifically including 17 year olds who are turning 18 soon. they should have been singled out for everyone. “if you need to register to vote, if you need to update your registration, they’re right there by the statue.” that’s all it would have took.
and that was it. we ended abruptly and made our way, peacefully, down the sidewalks back to the election board. so i’ll do the same here. i didn’t expect this event to be radical. but it’s still clear that this place is behind where it could be.