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“It’s a hard rain’s gonna fall…”

The Photo Report from Sunday’s Parade for Human Rights in Columbus, Ohio, is here, and from the looks of things, a hard rain is coming for those who would stand in the way of farmworkers’ fundamental rights!

In what would become an unforgettable march celebrating the end of the week-long fast by students and alumni at The Ohio State University — and the start of a rolling fast of students across the Fair Food Nation in support of the Wendy’s Boycott — nearly 500 farmworkers and their consumer allies braved cold winds and a soaking rainstorm to march three miles through the streets of Columbus this past Sunday in pursuit of justice for the workers who pick Wendy’s fruits and vegetables.

Pedro Lopez addresses marchers from the back of the sound truck as they make their way out of Columbus’ Goodale Park Sunday at the start of the Parade for Human Rights.  (A special thanks for many of the beautiful photos in this report goes to Smriti Keshari, producer of the award-winning documentary Food Chains and a dear friend of the CIW.)

The march — and the storm — approaches…

As the marchers gathered at Goodale Park for the opening rally and chose the signs and banners they would carry for the day, some small…

… and some very tall…

… the weather — long predicted to be absolutely miserable — gave fleeting signs of hope that the worst might just hold off. But it wasn’t long before marchers began prudently battening down the hatches for what was clearly going to be a rough patch ahead…

Several speakers and artists — some new to the Campaign for Fair Food, like Columbus City Councilwoman Elizabeth Brown (pictured below), who welcomed workers from Immokalee to the city and shared her own hopes that Columbus’ hometown fast-food company would soon join the growing Fair Food Program…

… and some who have been with the Campaign since the beginning, like our very own poet laureate of the Fair Food Movement, Olmeca…

… did their very best to warm up the marchers for the long road ahead. But as the opening rally drew to a close and the first drops began to fall, it was clear there would be no dodging the rain on this day, no matter how prepared one might have been…

The heavens open and the deluge begins…

The skies opened up just as the marchers left the park.

But while the initial shock of the downpour was indeed rough on many of the participants’ spirits (there’s no sugarcoating the effect of those first few soaking, sloshing steps)…

… the marchers survived Mother Nature’s first salvo and gradually realized that they couldn’t, in fact, be any more drenched than they already were.  Slowly but surely, with that oddly comforting thought in mind, their steps quickened, their voices grew stronger, and just like that one of the most memorable marches in the nearly two-decade long annals of the Campaign for Fair Food was off!


The rain goes away!…

And soon enough, the marchers were rewarded for their extraordinary good spirits with a break in the weather, an end to the rain, and even a bit of sun, raising their collective energy even higher:

The marchers’ infectious spirits attracted the attention of hundreds of bystanders as the residents of Columbus gradually made their own way back into the street:

Finally, the march neared the end of its 3-mile route, first with a stop at a downtown Wendy’s for a quick protest…

… which, despite its dominating size swallowing up the street in front of the store…

… managed to draw warm smiles of support from those living in apartments above the restaurant.

The sun comes out, and the torch is passed…

And on its final turn, the march made its way onto the OSU campus…

… where, as if on cue as the marchers wound through campus to the location for the final rally on a spacious central green…

… the sun broke out in earnest from behind the clouds…

… and the 19 courageous student and alumni fasters from OSU…

… prepared to break bread together…

… for the first time in seven long days.

It was the perfect ceremony, dignified…

… filled with anticipation and final moments of reflection,…

… and decidedly joyous, for the fasters…

and the rest of the marchers alike…

It was the perfect closure to a week of sacrifice, struggle, and close companionship.

Closure for the OSU fasters, but not an end to the fast itself, because after eating their first solid food in a week, the OSU fasters invited a contingent of University of Michigan students to join them on stage, where they proceeded to announce that the Michigan students would be taking up the torch and launching the next leg in a rolling student fast in support of the Wendy’s Boycott and the Boot the Braids campaign on campuses across the country! The OSU students removed the white armbands signifying their participation in the fast…

… tied them onto the arm of a fellow student from the University of Michigan…

… and celebrated their bond in the battle for fundamental human rights in the fields, a bond they would share for a lifetime.

And with that, the Parade for Human Rights was over.

It was time for the Return to Human Rights Tour crew to pack up the banners, say final goodbyes to our friends in Columbus, and get ready to head out on the road once again, this time to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and an action at another campus Wendy’s restaurant, this time on the campus of the University of North Carolina.

There is much more to be told of the tour’s big weekend in Columbus — including a great press round-up and still further indications that Wendy’s is feeling the heat — but we will leave that for a later post. For now, we will let the photos from one of the most memorable marches in the long history of the Campaign for Fair Food speak for themselves.  And it is only fitting to leave you with one last shot of the fasters themselves, both those who sparked this new campus campaign with their weeklong fast at OSU, and those who have stepped up to carry it forward at the University of Michigan:

Check back soon for more updates from the road, as the Return to Human Rights Tour makes its way to Wednesday’s grand finale in Tampa!

 

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