This past Saturday was the day of the annual HKonJ rally and march (#HKonJ #MoralMarch hashtags). HKonJ stands for Historic Thousands on Jones Street. It was one of several HKonJ marches I’ve attended. Previous marches sometimes seemed overly optimistic calling themselves “thousands” as there didn’t seem to be a lot of interest. That certainly wasn’t the case Saturday as there was arguably the biggest demonstration I’ve ever seen in Raleigh.
Kelly, Hallie, and I attended but we were running late due to all the other things that happen in the Turner household on weekends. By the time we had made our signs and were in the car, it was close to 10:30 AM. We parked the car in the parking deck at Blount and Cabarrus and snapped a quick photo before heading off. Kelly and Hallie took their signs and joined the crowd marching towards Fayetteville Street, while I took advantage of the empty parking deck to launch my drone for some aerial footage of the crowd.
At least I got some footage before a downtown Raleigh security person (“ambassador?”) chased me out of the deck, saying that hanging around to photograph was not permitted. Then, when I tried to launch again from the intersection of Wilmington Street and Davie Street, my drone lost its GPS lock and landed in a tree. Fortunately only the propellers got damaged but I had no backups with me and packed it in to get to my Democratic Party SEC meeting that afternoon.
I posted a few aerial shots I had taken and got lots of shares and likes on Twitter and Facebook. I’m surprised I was the only one in the air but that apparently was the case. I have to get serious about getting a commercial drone license so I can do this for pay.
I was thinking about the rally again earlier this week while I frantically printed and signed a stack of invitations for active Democrats in my neighborhood to attend an upcoming precinct meeting. A favorite chant at rallies is “this is what democracy looks like.” I thought about that while I put those papers together and decided that marching down the street is perhaps what the first step of democracy looks like. It’s the flashy and fun part, the easy part. It’s the celebration. It’s fun to get together with your tribe and let out a roar. It’s energizing.
But it’s not enough. Democracy is knocking on doors, signing up voters. It’s pitching in to help campaigns. It’s choosing to run as a candidate. It’s working phone banks, canvassing neighborhoods, and organizing volunteers.
This is where the Tea Party has outdone us lefties. They have rallies too, of course, but they have followed them up with action. They have steered their candidates towards their views and made those views abundantly plain to elected officials. In short, they’ve done the heavy lifting of democracy; the quiet, behind-the-scenes work that really makes a difference. That’s how they’ve become a political force in America today.
That’s one quibble I have with HKonJ: there need to be more tables along Fayetteville Street staffed by good organizations who can use that moment to sign up an army of volunteers. What good does it do to march and cheer if you just go home and that’s it? I didn’t see much effort put into harnessing the energy that was built and it seems like a missed opportunity. Fortunately, there will be other rallies and chances to build on this, so hopefully people will continue to be engaged.