First-person perspective: student finds comfort and solidarity at D.C. March for Science

Photo courtesy of Courtney DuChene

Courtney DuChene

On Saturday, April 22, several Ursinus students and professors made the journey to Washington, D.C. to attend the March for Science. The march was part of a series of similar rallies held across the world this Earth Day to celebrate the value of science in public policy and our everyday lives. The trip was organized by Dr. Rebecca Lyczak of the biology department and was sponsored by the Center for Science and the Common Good. Courtney DuChene ’19 shared her experience at the march.

As we exited the bus in D.C., the bus driver, a short blond woman, told us to “have fun at the rally.” It was a phrase that stuck with me throughout the day as we waited in the blowing rain to get into the rally and as we marched through the brown, clay-like mud. I wasn’t sure marches were supposed to be fun. I considered them a duty and certainly important, but I wasn’t sure fun was the right word.

I attended the March for Science for a couple reasons. The first was because of my Summer Fellows project. This summer, I will be making a docudrama film about the 2016 election and resistance to Donald Trump. The $10 bus ride offered by Ursinus seemed too good to pass up, especially because I needed protest footage.

The second reason, and arguably the more important one, is that since the election I have felt rather helpless. I have called and emailed representatives in both Pennsylvania and my home state of Minnesota, I voted in both the general election and the primaries, and I remain engaged with current events, even when they dishearten me. All of these actions should make me feel like a proactive citizen, but as I see Trump bombing Syria and National Geographic reporting his decision to roll back Obama-era policies intended to curb climate change, I feel disheartened. I wonder what kind of world we’re moving toward. I was hoping the march would be a release for the anxious, afraid energy that so frequently plagues my mind. I needed an opportunity to scream.

In that light, the march could be described as a bit of a letdown. Chants of “This is what democracy looks like,” “Ho ho, hey hey, the EPA is here to stay,” and “Science makes America great” did not roll through the crowd as easily or with the same urgency as they had at other marches like the larger-scale Women’s March in January.

The March for Science, however, showed its passion in a different way. Thousands of people turned out in the rain to march. They stayed, even as the ink on their “There is no Plant B” signs ran and their clothes got soaked. The passion was quieter; it hummed through the crowd in conversations and it radiated in the decorative signs.

I shielded my camera under a blue rain poncho as I marched. In the brief period when the rain subsided, I filmed the crowd standing en masse in front of the Washington monument and the muddy footprints on the sidewalk as we walked.

Our group waited almost an hour to get into the actual event. Students craned their necks as we heard Bill Nye’s voice float over the speakers. Once we got inside the rally, we listened to speakers for about a half hour before the march. We walked slowly as we exited the main area. The crowd was so thick for a while that we were just standing still.

Once we started marching, I was impressed by the quiet force of the marchers. Children ran through the crowd waving signs that proclaimed their love for science. They chanted to themselves as their parents held their hands. As we moved through the street, we passed libraries and museums. All of the buildings are old, marked with Doric columns and holding the history of the country inside them. We walked towards the Capitol Building and I wondered if Trump was even there, if he was even listening to the cries of his country.

After the march, we headed to Union Station to meet the bus. The bus driver asked us if we’d had a good time. We were sopping wet. My hair was tangled from the wind and I once again meditated on her question. The rain, the mud, and the wind should have made the day miserable, but somehow I felt a little warmer. Although the future still feels uncertain, I felt like for a moment I had at least found some footing.