March for Science draws thousands in Denver

Thousands of people marched through downtown Denver in defense of or in solidarity with science Saturday. They joined protests nationwide in what was termed a “March for Science.”

A woman holds a globe that reads “love” during the March for Science on April 22, 2017. (Jackson Barnett/CU Independent)

Protest signs expressed a myriad of sentiments, from “There is no Planet B” to “Science is not a Liberal Conspiracy.” Creativity was on display as people sported white lab coats and pink beanies resembling an exposed brain. A four-piece white elephant ambled along next to marching feet, and a towering marionette representation of Governor John Hickenlooper displayed criticisms of his policies regarding fracking.

Ari Groobman holds a sign that reads “Science Makes American Great!” in front of an effigy of Gov. Hickenlooper. (Jackson Barnett/CU Independent)

“The politics of today are downplaying the importance of science,” said Debra Finch, protester. She marched wearing a pink “thinking cap” she made herself. “I think we need to support scientific inquiry.”

People gather on Capitol Hill during the March for Science on the morning of April 22, 2017. (Jackson Barnett/CU Independent)

Finch’s reasons for marching fall in line with the event’s official mission statement, which states that science “can and should influence policy and guide our long-term decision making.” This demonstration was sparked by the Trump administration’s gag orders, hiring freezes and pulling of data and research earlier this year. The proposed budget further amplified the call to organize — institutions including the EPA and the NOAA research office are scheduled to have a 30 percent and 52 percent decrease in funding, respectively. The march came on Earth Day to help emphasize science. Organizers were also inspired by the Women’s March in January.

Beginning at 10 a.m. in Civic Center Park, a massive crowd of people looped around the 16th Street Mall. Chants of “science not silence” and “this is what democracy looks like” came in intervals. Protesters seemed to let their signs do some talking as well.

The main demonstration took place in Washington, D.C., with over 600 accompanying satellite marches worldwide, according to the organization’s website.

Denver’s march came together through the collective effort of a handful of organizers and a few hundred volunteers.

“I just jumped on it,”said Eric Keitzer, head organizer, while observing the official march’s Facebook page gain thousands of members by the minute.

A woman holds a sign expressing her views on climate change during the March for Science on April 22, 2017. (Jackson Barnett/CU Independent)

Without much experience, pulling off the march was a challenge. A team came together to coordinate all of the logistics necessary to host the event. Between working a full-time job and performing in a theatrical production, Bradley Abeyta put all of his spare time toward making the march happen.

“I just have a love for humanity and I have a love for what this country is capable of providing to humanity,” Abeyta said. “I don’t think we’re living up to our potential.”

Keitzer summed up the main purpose.

“We want to bring awareness to what is happening,” he said. “We also want to have a direct impact on policy makers. We want them to take a look at empirical data and evidence when they’re making policies for us.”

This sentiment was heavily reflected in the signs people carried with them. A lineup of speakers shared their views with the crowd at the capitol building.

Lupita Montoya, an assistant professor in engineering at CU Boulder, projected her speech in both English and Spanish. Montoya is a first-generation Chicana scholar who applies her skills as an engineer with the goal of achieving social and environmental justice. She spoke about the underrepresentation of people of color in the scientific community and how this demographic most severely feels the environmental challenges the country faces today.

Montoya got involved with the March for Science through her membership in the Society for the Advancement of Chicano and Native Americans in Science.

“If you really care about something, then presumably you rise up and fight for it, and that’s how I feel right now,” Montoya said before the march.

She enthusiastically encourages her students to pursue scientific careers, even in such uncertain times.

“Number one, people need to be educated about what’s happening, especially young people,” she said. “They should be concerned because it’s not just cuts for research. It’s about jobs in the future, education opportunities, all of those things.”

The event wrapped up around 3:00 p.m., when the last speaker finished and protesters dispersed.

Contact CU Independent News Staff Writer Sarah Farley at sarah.farley@colorado.edu.

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