“We Are Not Afraid of Action”: Thousands March for Science in Downtown Raleigh | News

“We Are Not Afraid of Action”: Thousands March for Science in Downtown Raleigh

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MEGAN HOWARD
  • Megan Howard
Thousands of people marched in downtown Raleigh on Saturday to support the worldwide March for Science, under the slogan “Science, not Silence.”

With over six hundred cities participating worldwide, the march demonstrated widespread support for the scientific process—and for the role science should play in policymaking. The marches also arose partly in protest of President Trump’s proposals to slash funding for the Department of Health and Human Services, including nearly $6 billion from the National Institutes of Health, as well his rollbacks of anti-climate-change initiatives.

In Raleigh, people gathered at Shaw University’s Estey Hall to begin the march. Before it began, Darrell Stover, an N.C. State professor, read a poem he wrote, titled “Mad Baby,” about a dinoflagellate called Pfiesteria piscicida that harms fish life off the coast of North Carolina and can cause human illness through toxin exposure.


With signs that read, “There’s no Planet B” and “Science Is the Future,” the crowd began the march toward Moore Square, where a rally and science fair was being held. Among the marchers were science teachers and students, including Mike and Mary Czysz. Mike Czysz has been an environmental, physics, and astronomy teacher at institutions such as the Roxboro Community School and Piedmont Community College for seventeen years.

Mary and Mike Czysz - MEGAN HOWARD
  • Megan Howard
  • Mary and Mike Czysz

“We do not believe in fake science,” he said. “You must take measurements and you interpret them.”

N.C. State graduate students Kate Schweri, Kestrel McCorkie, and Arlene Mendoza-Moran were marching as well. Asked about how some scientists were refusing to march because they didn’t want to politicize science, Schweri replied, “I feel that politicians have already politicized science. It’s important for scientists to get out and spread the message.”

Kate Schweri, Kestrel McCorkie, Arlene Mendoza-Moran - MEGAN HOWARD
  • Megan Howard
  • Kate Schweri, Kestrel McCorkie, Arlene Mendoza-Moran

“I feel like scientists have tended to be isolated,” Mendoza-Moran added. “It’s shocking to me that [science] has come into question and is in danger. It’s alarming.”

At the rally at Moore Square, organizer Kriti Sharma began the speaker panel by reading a poem by Audre Lorde, “A Litany for Survival.”

And when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak


Sharma discussed the program platform, which included these three central points:

1. Science is for everyone and all people use science and should benefit equally from it.
2. There is uncertainty in science, but there is also such a thing as a consensus. We are powerfully unified on some basic facts.
3. Paid scientists are people who work for a living and support all working people’s rights to health, safety, and dignified work. Scientists deserve good and dignified jobs and job security.

Richard Watkins, the program coordinator for the Chancellor’s Science Scholars Program at UNC-Chapel Hill, took to the stage with a message on how it is better to speak out, as well as a message for those who did not choose to do so.

“There are many people who aren’t here today,” Watkins said. “They choose inaction when they’re afraid. Well, we’re not the only animals or species that choose to remain still when they’re afraid. For the longest, I would look at the symbol of this march, which was an electron cloud that surrounded an acorn. And I could not figure—what does that acorn represent? Well, just on my way to this march, I was driving, and a squirrel ran right in front of my car. Right in front of the car, it stopped. If it wasn’t for me swerving to miss it, I would have ran it right over. That squirrel was so afraid that it was willing to face its own demise instead of choosing action. To all my people out there who are afraid of action: it will not save you. But that’s not the people in this audience, is it? We are not afraid of action. We are not afraid to speak up. We’re not afraid to make some noise and be heard, are we?”

For organizer Ginnie Hench, the march for science was about scientists standing in solidarity with each other.

“I’m here because people working in agencies that monitor and protect our commonly shared environment are facing a much greater attack,” she said. “When we’re talking about our air, water, and soil, spaces that defy state lines and national boundaries, we must have a robust and resilient infrastructure where skilled scientists can thrive and take pride in what they do. As well, those who are working in the private sector shouldn’t be given gag orders if they want to talk about any of these problems.”

Others who spoke at the rally, such as federal scientist Tamara Tal, discussed how budget cuts under the Trump administration might hurt the scientific community.

“Federal scientific research is a truly positive force in our society,” she said. “There’s a reason we have flu vaccines every year and we can combat rapidly evolving public health threats like Zika. It’s called the Center for Disease Control. There’s a reason we have clean air to breathe, safe water to drink, and that there’s no longer lead in paint or gasoline. It’s called the Environmental Protection Agency. There’s a reason we have new cancer drugs, and a new vaccine under development for Zika virus. It’s called the National Institutes for Health. And there’s a reason that we can track hurricanes, and we can track global fisheries that provide the single largest source of protein for humans on this planet. It’s called the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. So, who are these cuts going to hurt? They’re going to hurt federal researchers and scientists like us. In the Research Triangle Park, alone, the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences and the Environmental Protection Agency employ over thirty-five hundred workers.”

In addition to the speaker panel, a science fair was set up in Moore Square to engage the community with scientific endeavors and organizations, including Citizen Science, AdvocateScience, and the Duke University Graduate Students Union.

Duke Students Union member Scott Barish, a biology PhD student, explained why his organization attended the March for Science.

“We’re trying to improve working conditions for students on Duke’s campus and show support for the sciences, while ensuring that scientific funding continues to improve at Duke and all over the country,” he said.

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