The March Against Monsanto

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So it’s been a little while since the March against Monsanto, but Emily and I have been busy getting started in our new job at Grand Teton National Park.  So far so good.

I’ll just say now that the March was amazing. The night before Emily and I were jazzed up from the day’s events; graduating our EMT class and going out for bowling with her family. We stayed up late making big signs out of some cardboard we found in a dumpster and her raft paddles.  Emily’s sister even helped when she stuck a box on her head and had a great idea for a face- related sign that would later prove consequential. Being our first real protest we learned right away that markers , no matter how big are not the way to go. We squeaked away for hours, next time we’ll get some paint.

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The next day, Saturday May 25th, Emily and I set out with her Mom Becky, Sister Kelsey, and even Kelsey’s adorable baby Eloise, for Balboa Park near Downtown San Diego.  As we walked through the park toward the fountain where everyone was to meet we didn’t notice any other protesters. For a few minutes it seemed like it would just be the five of us walking through the avenues of the park. As we got to the fountain we were relieved to see a large gathering already several hundred strong.  There were signs of every kind shape and sign sticking every direction out of the throng of people gathered there. Everyone was listening to a kind of pep talk before we set out to march.

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We found a good spot to listen and eagerly waved our signs at each other and passersby on the road.  Some people would honk in support while others stared in obvious confusion.  Emily wore the face sign, and I held the two paddle signs. We got quite a few compliments.  Even baby Eloise sported a sign that said “I’m just a baby, please stop poisoning me.” She certainly got a lot of attention with that one (also for just plain being cute.)

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As more and more people gathered I couldn’t help but get excited. At this point the percentage of the American population that is actually asking questions about where their food is coming from is sadly very small. It is easy at times to feel out there on the fringe.  Yet here was a consolidated, energized, and adamant group of people, downright angry people, all gathered to tell the world that there is a big problem with our food. All of us were concerned about the global food monopoly this small group of gigantic corporations has on the world. All of us angry that our country can’t connect the dots between the corrupted food we eat and the ever worsening state of public health. All angry that the Food and Drug Administration might as well be a subsidiary of those same corporations, their policy and enforcements laughable in defending public health.  Seeing those people there and joining with them was simply exhilarating and refreshing. The thought in my head at that point was that we were joining two million people in over three hundred sister protests all over the world.  We were not alone and crazy after all.

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At some point Emily got tired of her head- box-sign and we switched. Not long after that a Channel Ten news reporter must have noticed and cornered me for an interview. On one hand this was great; Emily and I had been wondering if the media would even cover the event. Despite two million people worldwide all Marching Against Monsanto we wouldn’t have been surprised if it had “somehow” gone totally unreported.  On the other hand all of a sudden I was a public face for the movement and am not a good speaker. And all because of a last minute corny face sign. Yikes! Well I didn’t do horrible, and was on the news that night. I believe I am quoted online as well at channel ten news\

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And so we all got excited and all set out marching, through the wide boulevard of the Balboa Park, toting signs and garnering all sorts of strange confused looks. Somehow our numbers had been masked by gathering, once we were set in motion the full effect became obvious. There were thousands of people marching down a wide lane, all dressed in red and waving signs. Two thousand had responded to attend by Facebook, yet it was obvious there were at least three thousand people, a scarlet river proceeding down the road. And then we were suddenly crossing the bridge into town. We had thought we were marching only through the park and were a bit surprised. Sure enough though the police were there escorting us through the city of San Diego, holding up lines of traffic while this half mile parade marched on, chanting it’s mission. “If it’s safe why can’t we know?…. Label aa-ll GMO’s”

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We marched nearly to Downtown, and then made a timely and refreshing stop at the San Diego Farmers Market. It was a fitting destination, simultaneously decrying the corporate food system and supporting local farmers. Unfortunately it was only a halfway point before we turned to march through downtown and back to the park. After a twenty minute break the march resumed at half strength when many people were lost in the confusion of the market. We marched around the city and headed back up the hill to Balboa Park. A total of three miles, it was a good haul for several thousand sign waving protesters.

One unintended consequence of all this hit me early on.  Emily’s family was with us that day mostly because they had no choice. They wanted to spend time with us on our last day in San Diego before we left for our summer jobs in the Tetons. They were not part of this movement however they came and learned a great deal about why we went that day. Despite our efforts, I’m fairly sure Emily’s mother thought we were nuts for everything we do and how we spend our money on food. But I saw her there listening to the speakers before the march, really listening to all the facts, and it was profound. She was deeply impresed when the speaker related one particularly shocking fact: that 270,000 farmers in India have committed suicide due to Monsanto’s activity there.  We are grateful her family came to support us. So now I know it can happen; we can make change. If we can just spread awareness of what is going on people will respond.

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