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A spirit that is not afraid

March for Science sweeps downtown Auburn

Hundreds of Auburn men, women and children gathered behind the Auburn Unitarian Universalist Fellowship building Saturday morning, multicolored signs and banners in hand. Their purpose: to remind people of the value and importance of science.

The March for Science brought together concerned citizens all over the world, with five of them happening in Alabama alone, including Montgomery, Mobile, Huntsville and Birmingham. Massive crowds swept larger cities like Chicago.

The event began with a speech from Kelli Thompson, the primary organizer for Auburn’s March for Science, who informed the crowd that Auburn's march was added to the national registry as an official March for Science.

A local band, Noisy Deirdre, which describes itself as “nearly traditional, industrial folk,” began playing Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” after being introduced by Thompson.

The Auburn march featured several guest speakers such Mike Kensler, the director of Auburn University’s Office of Sustainability.

“‘I do not feel obliged to believe that the same god who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use,’” Kensler said, recalling the words of Galileo. “Here we are, 400 years later, and we can all relate to that.”

Kensler spoke of the purposes that the March for Science had, such as bringing awareness to elected officials to support science that helps the common good, that scientific research should help be funded by our government and that the public deserves scientifically informed policy that serves the people’s interests, as opposed to corporate interests.

Upon Kensler mentioning that President Donald Trump plans to cut funding to the National Institutes of Health by $1.2 billion, the crowd booed.

“I think, frankly, either our elected officials serve the public interests, or we find new elected officials,” Kensler said to a cheering crowd.

Jesse Smith, a U.S. military veteran and a former Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, spoke at the event as well, beginning by leading the crowd in a chant of “Science is good.”

“If you don’t care about environmental justice, then you don’t really care about humanity at all,” Smith said. “You will not get clean water by hoping. Wishing will not reduce our carbon footprint. Political will and scientific advancement will do exactly that.”

After the speeches, Thompson led the marchers in singing MILCK’s song “Quiet” before heading to go downtown with their posters held above their heads.

As the march made its way down Magnolia Avenue, College Street and Gay Street, numerous car horns from the busy downtown traffic were met with applause and cheers from the marchers, who shook signs with messages like, “There is no Plan(et) B,” “Science: The Solution to Alternative Facts” and “Demand Science-based Policies!” as their numbers formed a river of people down Auburn’s sidewalks.

Children walked beside their parents or in strollers chanting “We love Earth,” and “Save the trees” while holding their own hand-drawn posters.

Thompson seemed to have a kind of ubiquity in downtown that day, dashing to and from multiple crosswalks to lead marchers in chanting “Science, not silence” and encouraging them to raise their signs higher.

“It exceeded my expectations. I was going to be happy if 50 people showed up, and I think we had around 250,” Thompson said after the march. “The citizens of Auburn will stand up for what they value, and science, education and research are somethings we value here, and we definitely showed up and made that clear.”

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