About 100 Occupy supporters gathered by the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia Thursday to kick off a 99-mile march to Wall Street in New York. They call themselves the Occupy “guitarmy” and their weeklong journey is tied to the 100th anniversary of Woody Guthrie’s birth on July 14.
Standing outside the Liberty Bell in the morning sun, about a dozen people sang and played guitars as they prepared for the march.
“This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York island,” they sang.
At the edge of the group, Daphne Carr handed out lyric sheets, though few needed them.
Carr, an Ohio native now living in New York City, helped put the march together.
“I am planning to march all the way to New York,” she said. “I’ve been exercising and doing practice walks. We’ve all been doing practice walks for the last few weeks. I soaked my feet in black tea tannin water for the last two weeks, which keeps the sweat from building up on your feet.
“And I have every kind of water pack you would ever imagine,” Carr said.
Carr said the aim of the march is to make people aware of cuts in local, state and federal funding for music education.
“Music is one of the most important ways to be sociable and to raise your voice communally to express your political and social and emotional values and needs in solidarity with other people,” she said.
Carr said marchers will carry day packs and instruments. Vans will ferry other supplies.
Tuning up for a long walk
The scent of bug spray and sunscreen floated through the warm air while musicians tuned their guitars and marchers tied on armbands.
One marcher, who gave his name as Goldie, said marchers would move north out of Philadelphia and then stay along the Delaware River.
“Then we’re going to go up to Morrisville to stay on a farm, and we’re going to go through Trenton — visit Occupy Trenton — see what they’re up to. Up to Princeton, New Brunswick. We’re going to stay at a rehearsal and recording studio,” Goldie said.
On the way to New York, the musicians, mostly playing guitars, will perform protest songs.
“We played all over Occupy Wall Street in New York City,” says Paul Stein, a retired lawyer and part of The Occuponics, a musical group.
“Music is so important, culture is so important for the Occupy movement. It conveys a message in a very easy to understand and non-threatening way,” Stein said. “So in our songs, we talk about the things we want to change.”
While the plan is to play mostly protest and traditional songs along the way, Brooklyn resident Stein says he’s adding some new lyrics to the repertoire.
“I’ll sing you a verse,” Stein agreed Thursday morning.
“We’re marching to the beat of Occupy Wall Street.
We’re here to shout we’ve been left out we’re turning up the heat.
We’re the 99 percent, our income slashed our savings spent.
Wall Street created this predicament so we occupy for change.”
A few feet away a young guitarist from Philadelphia started strumming. He called out for others to join him and a few came over to join in the song.