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Suddenly and unexpectedly, we found ourselves in the middle of a protest parade on the streets of Toronto. It was our second time in the city, our first time without chaperones.
It was just after the ball had dropped, or whatever it is that brings in the new year in Canada. We were making our way back to our hotel, hoping to find an open coffee shop on the way, swimming through the crowded city streets. People, wrapped in colorful winter wear, screamed and whooped in celebration while stumbling around in search of another bar. We assumed we were part of the general crowd flooding the sidewalks; everyone looked the same. But then we saw the signs surrounding us. Signs on sticks. Somehow, this particular pod of people we had fallen into step with was different than the rest. We were handed a flyer, which of course can only mean one thing: these people had a message.
Exactly what they were protesting was unclear, and we didn’t bother to read the flyer. Or the signs. But we were captivated by their rhythm. We could have ignored their attempts to recruit us and made our escape, but instead we decided to join in. We shouted unfamiliar words with them, we marched in unison with the crowd. We may have even grabbed a sign or passed out a flyer.
It was thrilling to be part of a protest even if we didn’t know what we were fighting against. It was like floating. Like the power of the protest was carrying us through the crowd. These strangers were our friends, our comrades, our partners. We all marched together.
And then a couple minutes later we simply stopped, stood in place, let them march on. They waved their signs, passed out their flyers, yelled their message, and enveloped other unknowing strangers into their fold. We shouted “happy new year” in their wake, and then turned to find a coffee shop.