The popcorn stand |

The popcorn stand

“We’re marching for/against something on Saturday,” said the text from my wife, or that’s how I remember it.

Technically, it may have said “Do you want to … ?” but “yes” is the only proper answer.

I have marched for many things and against some things. I did not believe at the time my marching made any difference. I would have marched a lot more if I could have convinced myself it was helping the cause.

Leading up to my Saturday morning walk, I looked for academic studies available online (a fancy way of saying “I typed a question into a search engine”) and what I found (drum roll) … didn’t really answer the question.

In fact, the conclusion of an article on the website of the London School of Economics and Political Science said, “In conclusion, studies … are inconclusive and incomplete.” (

Summing up the various pieces I read, marches alone normally don’t accomplish their stated goals. But, as part of a larger movement, they can play a role in creating change. Like many things in life, it comes down to the follow through.

“The civil rights movement and more recent social movements, like the tea party, succeeded because they worked hard on three key factors: organization, messaging and nonviolence,” wrote Shom Mazumder on Jan. 27 in the Washington Post in an article that summarized the most recent research into my question (“Yes, marches can make a difference. It depends on these three factors,”

Marches are helpful in gaining attention. They provide plenty of images and they don’t require a major time investment for the media. And participants feel good for the effort. But a march itself isn’t likely to change anything.

Most of my decisions can be reduced to three possible outcomes: I can help, hurt or make no difference. In the end, I marched because I came to the conclusion it cannot hurt. If that is true, maybe it will help.

— Rick Hoover