Though about 200 of the 1,200 people who registered actually showed up to the Healthcare Justice March Rally, organizers and attendees alike were pleased and galvanized by fiery speeches, enthusiastic chants and songs, and even some good humor.
The crowd benefitted from Electrum Productions’ helpful suggestion and willingness to move the podium so it faced a line of shade trees, Capitol First Aid’s preparedness with cold, bottled water, and the cooperation of Mother Nature who provided a particularly low humidity level for Washington in August!
“We really couldn’t have asked for a better day,” said Donna Ellington, assistant director. “Yes, I’m sure there are some who are gloating at the lack of attendance, but we had people here from 18 states, not just from the DC area. We had speakers who were not the ‘usual suspects,’ including a psychiatrist from Ohio, Dr. Lou Klein, who should consider a side job as a comedian; Leslie Boyd, a mother from N. Carolina who lost her son needlessly due to his lack of access to the care he needed; faith leaders from the Unitarian Universalist church in Pennsylvania and a S. Carolina Christian Fellowship near Charleston; activists Dr. Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese of Popular Resistance; the Chief of Staff for Senator Bernie Sanders; and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. We’ve had nothing but positive feedback.”
“This was so much more than I expected,” said Kerry Smith, attending from Kansas City, MO with her two young daughters. “The speakers were really compelling and though there weren’t the number of people they’d expected, the diversity, especially in age, and enthusiasm of the crowd was impressive! I think seeing activism like this was good for my girls – they’re now more likely to get involved in social justice movements.”
Attracting young people and “new blood” to the single-payer movement were objectives of HJM director Sue Saltmarsh, as was “drafting” those already involved who could think outside the box of what’s been done before. The seven-person team that worked together to organize the rally all brought specific experience and skills to the table.
“I wouldn’t change a thing!” Saltmarsh said. “The HJM team was amazing, the speakers were great, and even the weather cooperated!
“Though the crowd was smaller than we’d hoped, I have always believed that the people who were meant to be here would be. We’ve heard from many of the attendees thanking us for never giving up on our vision and asking what we’ll be doing next,” she continued, laughing. “My first response is ‘Recovering from the HJM!’ but I love that they’re thinking in terms of doing something and Donna and I are already kicking around a few ideas. For one thing, we’ve learned the hard way that we need to raise the money first and we have some new thoughts on that as well. I guess people will just have to stay tuned to see what we have in store for this journey next!”