Bellingham March for Science takes aim at ‘political agendas on all sides’

A crowd of thousands marched through downtown Saturday, declaring support for a subject taught in schools throughout the world.

The local March for Science followed the formula of others worldwide on the 47th Earth Day. Many marchers said the event aimed to push back against President Donald Trump’s policies surrounding the environment, climate change and other science disciplines.

Melissa Fanucci, an organizer, was hesitant to call the march a protest, but said she hoped it would help show that scientists are members of their communities, and that their work affects everyone.

“Science is non-partisan,” she said. “It’s not Democratic or Republican, it is all parties, and we want to make sure science-based research is used in making policies and decisions at the government level.”

Gathering outside City Hall around noon, marchers filled the closed street and parking area in front of the building before speakers took to a stage near the center of the crowd. The Bellingham Police Department on Twitter said the event drew about 2,000 participants.

Among those who spoke was Melissa Rice, an assistant professor of Planetary Science at Western Washington University, who drew cheers from the crowd after summarizing her work: “I drive robots on the planet Mars.”

“We cannot sit idly by while there are forces at work to undermine science, while evidence is being undermined by illogical fallacies and by political agendas on all sides,” Rice said.

The speeches ended with Capt. Wendy Lawrence, a retired naval aviator and astronaut who made four space flights between 1995 and 2005. She explained science in simple terms: “looking at the world around us, asking questions and seeking to understand what is happening.”

“And we do have to be dispassionate about the results,” she added. “We do just have to look at the findings whether we like them or not.”

Marchers took to the streets just after 1 p.m., making a nearly mile-long loop using Commercial, Holly, Bay, West Champion and Grand streets. Some shouted science-themed chants:

“What do we want?” one demonstrator yelled.

“Science!” others chanted back.

“When do we want it?”

“After peer reviews!”

Cassidy Hubsky, 21, from Walla Walla, marched along Grand Street carrying a sign that read “destroy the patriarchy, not the planet.” She said she didn’t think Trump’s administration cared about science, the environment or climate change.

“I’m really hoping it’s an eye opener for a lot of people that they just realize that so many people are out here supporting this,” she said of those who saw the march but didn’t participate. “I hope it really just makes them want to stop and learn about why people are out here doing this.”

Reid Smith, 69, and Louise Smith, 64, a couple from Bellingham, gathered near the Whatcom County Courthouse at Grand and Lottie as the last marchers came to the end of the loop.

“I’m really bothered by what’s happening in the administration now with all the people that have been hired to take down the agencies that depend on the revelations of science,” Reid Smith said. “It seems like there’s a war on science being waged by Trump and his followers.”

The event ended with a science fair on the lawn behind the Bellingham Public Library. Bellingham Police Sgt. Dave Crass, at about 2:30 p.m., said there were no arrests or reported incidents during the march.

Kyle Mittan: 360-756-2803, @KyleMittan