Create a March

Gandhi marchThe street march and the corner demonstration have a proud place in US history and in the history of social movements around the world. The abolitionist movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the labor movement, Gandhi’s anti-imperialist movement, the civil rights movement, and the movement against the Vietnam War all made good use of marches and demonstrations.

Today the tradition is alive and well, and Kids Right To Know is known for organizing peaceful, thematic fun marches for the protection of nature, bees, butterflies and the entire ecosystem across multicultural groups of all ages (families) and their children (not just activists).

When I started to speak up, and organized the very first Kids Right to Know March on the Streets of Toronto, my goal was to create awareness among families and children about the issue of unlabeled, untested, genetically engineered lab-made ingredients in our food. Since then I began receiving many letters from around the world, requesting information on how to start a Kids Right To Know March. So I have compiled a few ideas, the best I could, providing a general guideline on how to create your own march, in your own community.

Personally I love marching, it unites everyone’s passion for justice, a form of celebrating our hard work and finding out how the movement continues to expand. And we get to meet amazing passionate people. It is a moment when we stop to just talk about how we would like to see change, or use social media, or demonstrate the spirit of taking action to create the change we want to see in this world. It’s a moment in which our true spirit to create change and defend truth and democracy comes to life.

In solidarity,
Rachel Parent

Marching on the streets is one the most effective ways to show support for a cause, draw new people to that cause, and attract the attention of those in positions of power.

Organizing a Kids Right to Know March may sound like hard work, but it doesn’t have to be. Gather together two dozen of your friends, choose a theme, make some signs, come up with some chants, wear costumes according to your chosen theme, and you’re ready to March. All you have to do is hit the streets!

What is a March?

A march consists of a small or large group of people holding signs and shouting chants that express their need for change on a particular issue, walking as a group from one designated point to an agreed upon destination.

Kids Right to know Marches are fun, peaceful and usually a good idea when we expect a particularly large crowd, or when we want to convey a message in the selection of your route or your destination. An example of a march is any of those that occur on the National Mall in Washington, DC such as the Million Man March.

Steps for Organizing a March

1) Identify and reach out to supporters/ create a coalition

As with organizing any event—whether a house party, it is essential to bring together a key group of people who are committed to the project. It is also useful to reach out to other groups to see if they would want to contribute to the March. Campaigns work best when they are anchored by a coalition of groups and individuals. Who else might be interested in helping to plan the demonstration? What natural allies do you have in the community? Try to find coalition partners sooner rather than later. Coalitions work best when everyone is involved in the process from the beginning.

2) Assign tasks and determine roles

It is useful to make sure everyone knows their assigned tasks. Everyone should be responsible for spreading the word to the general public.

3) Location Location Location (plus Permits and officials)

You want to hold your demonstration where there is a lot of traffic—either auto traffic or pedestrians or both. Because you want to connect with as many people as possible, visibility is key. A lousy location can undermine even the best organized demonstration.

It is important that you know your rights regarding the use of space, whether you are organizing a demonstration on a college campus or along a public street. Many towns require permits for demonstrations, especially if you will be using amplified sound such as bullhorns. Permits are almost always required for marches since they may disrupt traffic.

4) Spread the Word

Turnout is crucial. A large number of people at your protest demonstrates broad public support for your cause. Key to gathering a crowd is a successful outreach strategy, including the production of materials like event fliers, direct mailers, invitations by mail and email, social media announcements, and public service announcements.

Distribute the fliers as much as possible among friends and colleagues to be disseminated publicly at coffee shops, community centers, bulletin boards, cultural centers, other events, churches, schools, universities, etc.

Social media is also a powerful way to raise awareness. Use the same graphics you created for the fliers and post those to Facebook and Twitter. Include as much information as possible in the post, and/or if you have access to a website, set up a specific website page for the event and put all the information there, then include a link to that page on all your social media posts.

Public service announcements can come in the form of a public radio or television station, or a notice about your event on community and neighborhood websites and blogs.

5) Speakers and Schedule

Whether you’re holding a solemn vigil or a loud march, you will want speakers at your event. Find someone in the audio business to obtain a bullhorn (at a minimum) or a microphone with amplifier and speakers (at best) so that everyone can hear the message.

6) Slogans and Chanting

Don’t assume that you will suddenly think up chants in the heat of the protest. This won’t happen, so you need to prepare chants beforehand.

It’s always a good idea to come up with a chant that might make people smile. Keep in mind that the passersby are people you want to educate, not alienate.

7) Signs and Other Materials

Colorful signs are essential for capturing people’s attention.

8) Literature and Handouts

A bright, colorful sign may catch someone’s attention, but then what? Most passersby won’t have the time to stop and chat about your cause. That’s why it’s important that you bring educational materials to hand out—some sort postcard, fact sheet or flier that discusses your issue.

9) Puppets, Costumes, and Props

Making art a central part of your protest will help you attract more attention and make it more fun for those involved. Life-size puppets offer a fantastic way to dramatize your issue, and they make a great visual for television cameras. Other kinds of props include giant banners, fun costumes or hats to enliven your demonstration.

10) Creative Actions, Skits and Songs

It’s always a good idea to think of new ways to express your point of view. Maybe you don’t want to have another protest with people changing and shouting. Perhaps you want something more original.

Skits and other kinds of performances provide an excellent way to grab people’s interest. Write and perform a short play that explores your issue. For example, anti-sweatshop activists have organized “sweatshop fashion shows” to show people who the real fashion victims are. A song and dance performance is another fun way to attract attention and get your point across.

Got a musician in your group? Get him or her to write a song about your cause and perform it!

11) Invite the Media/ Prepare Press Packets

A well-organized demonstration on a busy street corner can communicate with hundreds of people. But if the media covers your demonstration, you can reach 1,000 times as many people. Make sure you designate someone to be responsible for doing outreach to the media.

On the day of the demonstration, make sure you have plenty of press packets prepared. A press packet should have all the background material a reporter would need to cover your story, and concisely answer all the basic “Who, What, Why, Where and When” questions.