Librarians on the March

At least 200 information professionals join the Atlanta March

January 21, 2017

Crowd at the Atlanta March for Social Justice and Women.
Crowd at the Atlanta March for Social Justice and Women. Photo: George M. Eberhart/American Libraries

A mass of enthusiastic demonstrators took part in the Atlanta March for Social Justice and Women held on Saturday, January 21, during the ALA Midwinter Meeting and Exhibits. A contingent of at least 200 librarians participated, many dressed in pink pussyhats and Nasty Women t-shirts, brandishing signs like “Make America read again” and “Keep your hands off my area studies.” The demonstration was one of hundreds held in all 50 states and dozens of countries to show opposition to the policies of the Trump administration on immigration, women’s rights, health care, climate change, choice, diversity, and equality.

Midwinter Meeting attendees gathered in a hall of the Georgia World Congress Center to create posters, distribute “Radical Militant Librarian” pins, and generate some LIS energy for the march. A sign on the wall suggested some slogans the librarian contingent could use: “Silence is not the answer,” “Libraries are the key to freedom,” and “Too many issues­—not enough poster.”

Bedeviled by heavy rains at the beginning of the march, only about 18,000 assembled at the Atlanta Center for Civil and Human Rights (CCHR), but by the time the march ended at the gold-domed Georgia State Capitol nearly a mile away, the crowd had swelled to nearly 63,000, according to police estimates. There was a wide age range as well, from infants held by their mothers to senior citizens who may have been involved in Vietnam War protests. Black men and women, Hispanics, Muslims, and whites were all well-represented.

Marchers holding posters
Wendy Prellwitz, left, of ALA’s Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services, helped Midwinter attendees make posters for the march. Photo: George M. Eberhart/American Libraries

To some observers, it seemed as if the sun broke through the clouds when Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) took the makeshift stage at the CCHR around 2 p.m. A much-venerated leader from the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Lewis said, “I know something about marching, and I’m ready to march again.” He said that when you see something is wrong, you have a mandate to oppose it. “We cannot afford to be silent,” he said. “We should be standing up, getting in the way, and getting into good trouble, necessary trouble.” He added, “Don’t let anybody turn you around,” reminding the marchers that he has been arrested 45 times in his life, five of those after he was elected to Congress.

Despite the intimations of trouble, the march was well organized and the marchers were on their best behavior. The feeling of unity and respect was palpable. The Atlanta police, who were blocking off the streets along the march path, were cheered periodically by the passing crowds.

Lewis also gave a pep talk at the end of the march at the Capitol, which you can hear on the video, shot by American Libraries Associate Editor Phil Morehart. Another video shows marchers on their way to the Capitol.


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