Caravans are the new marches
As the virus surges and mass public gatherings become more perilous, our cars have become the new vehicles of political expression.
Driving the news: Automobiles plastered with images of and makeshift memorials to COVID-19 victims who died in poverty will caravan through at least 22 state capitals next week — the latest example of Americans trading in their walking shoes for a pandemic-friendly way to make their voices heard.
- The Rev. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, is organizing the Nov. 23 "Caravans of Mourning" event. His previous events have been modeled after MLK's 1968 Poor People's March.
- The group originally planned a series of civil disobedience actions to bring attention to poverty from Appalachia to the Mississippi Delta.
- Rather than cancel the demonstrations, Barber said, organizers decided to embrace social distancing to continue the fight.
Between the lines: In some cases, there's no substitute for an in-person gathering. Poor People's Campaign spokesperson said a contingency in Washington will get out of their cars for a social distancing vigil outside the National City Christian Church.
The big picture: Cars' utility amid the pandemic became apparent to individual households and communities before political movements embraced it.
- Starting in the spring, parents from York, Nebraska, to Placitas, New Mexico, celebrated school graduation celebrations and birthdays with car parades.
- Bands experimented with drive-in concerts to replace stadium shows.
- Uber and Lyft drivers organized car caravan protests against a California ballot measure on gig economy employment.
- These demonstrators — including many who get out of their cars upon arrival — have won the president's affection on Twitter.
- Eschewing mass rally crowds out of a desire to protect public health, President-elect Joe Biden instead gathered his own supporters for drive-in style events, counting on the space separating the cars, and the limited number of seats inside each vehicle, to protect people from one another.
The bottom line: COVID-19 has transformed virtually every aspect of social engagement. In this moment, caravans are keeping protests, as well as celebrations, alive.