The thing that never ceases to amaze and move me about protests and civil disobedience actions in the United States is the cheerful, festive spirit that usually defines these events.
Protests in India, where I grew up, are usually grim, tense affairs where the seriousness of the matter being protested seems to weigh the demonstrators down. Here in the US, people participating in protests seem energized and joyful about fighting for what they believe is right and just; and they share that positive energy through song and dance and a general sense of goodwill. It’s hard not to get caught up in the spirit of these events and believe, even if for a short while, that yes, another, brighter, better world is not only possible, it’s right around the corner.
This held true in Richmond, CA on Saturday, where a jaunty brass band, groups of drummers, and cheery sloganeers led about 2,800 sign-carrying, sunflower-wielding people on a three-mile march from the city’s Bay Area Rapid Transit station to the Chevron refinery. The protestors’ demands were dead serious. They want the big oil company to stop processing tar sands oil at the refinery and address local residents’ concerns about pollution and plant safety.