OPINION: Observer first, journalist second

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McKenna Corson

I’ve never been to a march, rally or really anything where people felt so passionately about something to fight for it. My parents texted me the night before, begging me not to go, and my friends outside of Kent told me to be careful and not to leave my apartment. I was just supposed to get lunch downtown with a friend and then go to Hudson to meet up with other friends, and somehow, I found myself at the open carry march on campus.

I couldn’t avoid it for some reason. The idea something historic could happen was so oddly attractive to me, and the thought of witnessing it pulled me in like a magnet.

However, the most interesting part of the walk to me wasn’t the anticipated collision of the opposing sides. It wasn’t the marchers toting guns at their sides, the anti-fascist members decked out in black or protestors chanting swears. The little things not associated with the walk were what I found most intriguing.

I saw signs with SpongeBob quotes scrawled on them. A group of people started an UNO game while waiting for the march to start. Random people shouted, “Creativity Festival 2k18,” followed by cheers and laughs from those within earshot. One guy wearing a cut-off muscle tank top had his girlfriend take his picture in front of armed police while he struck a pose with finger guns. An older man went around offering sunscreen to anyone with exposed skin, focusing more on the fight against skin cancer than gun rights.

These random people who couldn’t avoid the walk, like me, treated what some found as a way to have their opinions heard as a source of great entertainment.

It was strange going to an event like this where I didn’t need to cover it. I was able to hyper-focus on small details easily able to miss. I moved around freely and eavesdropped on very different conversations.

“Do you think their guns are loaded?”

“I heard the marchers want to meet on the field outside of Taylor Hall.”

“If I get tear-gassed, please pull me out.”

One student standing off to the side alone staring at the sky murmured, “Wow, so many drones,” to no one in particular.  

Small groups of fraternity boys clung to the edges, making jokes and poking fun at members of both sides. Attendants with random signs somehow found each other in the crowd and took pictures together, cracking up over their similar senses of humor.

I couldn’t stop noticing the small details.

I saw my KentWired co-workers dodging in and out of the clustered mass with cameras around their necks and phones in hand, eyes dead and faces showing how overwhelmed they were. Anti-fascist members cloaked in darkness, oozing an aura of mystery and unpredictability with armed police on their heels, weaved about the crowd. March protestors waved their signs with varying insults against Trump and screamed chants that ended up sounding almost like songs children would sing around campfires.

I saw two people come to a heated argument about their gun control views, and one student walked past me and offhandedly said to his friends, “They’re just fighting about their opinions. This is so dumb.”

I also saw a child no older than three chanting words she did not probably know the meaning of and a student nonchalantly eating lunch from a cardboard takeaway box while standing directly in the action.

The march was so much more than the pro-carry group and opposing sides meeting in the middle. Everyone knew that would happen. What no one could have predicted were the extraneous variables — the details people could have missed if they didn’t search for them. These details fueled this unique experience I couldn’t get enough of.

I had never been happier to be a bystander, not assigned the task of getting the scoop and general coverage. Thank you, muscle tank-clad guy, sunscreen-wielding man, that student more intrigued with the drones flying above than the action in front of him and that man who took his lunch to go and ate mid-protest.

But most importantly, thank you KentWired and my bosses for not making me cover this event. I would have missed out on something I found so much more interesting than conflict.

McKenna Corson is the general assignment editor. Contact her at [email protected]