This is what democracy should look like


“Show me what democracy looks like,” someone would shout. “This is what democracy looks like,” thousands joyously replied.

At 12:58 p.m. on Sunday, more than 310,000 people lining Central Park West fell silent and raised their hands in the air in a moment of silence for people affected by climate change.

This wasn’t what democracy sounded like, but for a moment it was what democracy looked like and it was beautiful.

Two minutes later, a roaring tidal wave of cheering, shouting and screaming rushed from the back of the People’s Climate March to the front.

This is what democracy sounds like.

It was a sound that echoed through Manhattan, reverberating off the walls and windows of the skyscrapers surrounding Central Park.

I tried to count how many times I shouted, “This is what democracy looks like,” or how many times I chanted “Hey Obama, we don’t want no climate drama,” but I lost track somewhere between 86th and 79th street. The march ended on 34th after crossing many major avenues, including Broadway, and passing through part of Times Square.

Democracy turned up in force with more than 310,000 people marching through New York City to start a conversation that carried over into the UN Summit this week. The march was a globally trending topic – there were dozens of smaller marches around the world – creating thousands of headlines and millions of photos, tweets and other social media interactions.

If this is what democracy looks and sounds like, then I’m glad to be part of it and able to participate in. A democracy that’s loud and visible instead of hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet or waiting for the recurring stories of a 24-hour news cycle to inevitably wind up discussing the varying views and opinions on climate change.

The eight-hour bus ride to the city made me question the many motivators I had for attending such an event.

By the time I was on my way back to Buffalo, many of these questions had been confidently rearranged, leaving the beauty and power of an assembled, vocal democracy a far cry from the only take away I had after marching through New York City.

When we arrived in the city that morning, a greeter told us they expected 100,000 people to show up, a vast understatement compared to the 3-400,000 who actually did. The magnitude of the march’s attendance wasn’t comprehendible. It went on for blocks, causing major traffic jams for much of the city for the afternoon.

A friend of a friend that marched with us kept commenting on what street we were on, how far we had marched and the affect the march being at various points in the city must be having on traffic, busses and ways into the city.

For people unfamiliar with the city, like myself, it wasn’t something I could fathom, even after seeing aerial footage of the march or reading headlines about the traffic jam.

The event wasn’t just eye opening for its support, but the zeal and passion of its supporters was awe-inspiring. People shouted, chanted, carried enormous posters, banners and models of earth and represented a wide variety of climate and political issues.

People marching brought representation to topics harkening back to Occupy Wall Street combined with a growing discussion on nuclear power, carbon pollution, waste and the general disregard many have toward the damage being done to our climate and planet.

Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” And for a moment I felt like part of that change.

Raising my hand into the air in silence, cheering moments later and marching through New York City along more than 310,000 other people is something I’ll never forget.

If this is what democracy looks like, I want more.