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Crowds of people gathered at the Farragut Square in Washington, D.C. on June 11 for the fifth annual Equality for Unity and Pride March.
With temperatures up to 95 degrees, heat blazed off the backs of marchers as they lined up. Spirits were high as participants, including Montclair State students, lit up the streets with their colorful signs and clothing.
Before arriving at the march, 24 Montclair State students boarded a fifty passenger bus that had been provided by the LGBTQ Center and the Center of Student Involvement with their own hopes and expectations for the event.
“By the end of this march, I want to feel out there,” said television production major Damon Dixon. “I am who I am unapologetically. Politically, I want the Trump administration to know we are powerful in numbers and to continue the fight.”
Dixon is a peer educator for the LGBTQ Center and helped organize the march. When putting the event together for the Montclair State community, Dixon, other LGBTQ leaders and LGBTQ Center coordinator Brian Edwards had originally planned to attend the march in New York City on June 25th, as they had in previous years. However, during the meeting it was decided that with the current Trump administration, the march in Washington D.C would be “bigger” and more effective since marchers were able to pass the White House.
“While we have made significant advances in the rights of LGBTQ people, there is so much work left to do,” said Edwards. “And the work movement needs to be intersectional. I believe we are starting to really see that and this march is a step towards our continued fight for equality.”
“[Montclair State] is a queer friendly, diverse campus,” said Kimberly McCarthy, a senior computer science major and member of the LGBTQ community. “It is a place to play with my identity and I discovered more things about myself.” McCarthy, who originally learned about the event through the peer-leaders of the LGBTQ center, described how Montclair State has accepted and respected the community.
“I am very excited to be here,” said Austin Grites, a Montclair State alumni who graduated this May. “I am a very political and politically active person. This is the fifth annual March that the LGBTQ Community has put together in Washington D.C. I am proud to be here to support my community and demand that the most vulnerable among us be treated with dignity and respect.”
Participants shouted various march chants that could be heard outside of the White House such as, “Whose House, Our House,” “What do we want? Equality! When do we want it? Now!” and “Say Hey, Say Ho. Donald Trump has got to go.”
Families with small children, the handicapped, the elderly, military service members, immigrants and various other groups attended the march to show their support. The atmosphere was peaceful and contained. Marchers enjoyed themselves as they posed in front of historical monuments with their signs.
“I have been hearing rumors about some senators speaking here,” said Ryan Berger, news director and senior political science major at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “But if anyone here wants to support [the LGBTQ community], this is the place to let us know they have our backs.” This was Berger’s first time attending the Equality for Unity and Pride March.
At the end of the event, Grites reflected back on the march and said, “A lot of the protests in the Capital are peaceful, which is great. There have been many angry protests, though this was not one of them. This was more about people coming together [and standing up for what they believe in].”