Protesters march for science in Indianapolis



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Theodore Williamson, 4, checks out the crowd around him. The Williamson family attended the Indianapolis March for Science on Saturday. Alexa Chryssovergis Buy Photos

INDIANAPOLIS — Theodore Williamson, 4, held the multicolored binoculars against his small, wire-framed glasses and peered intently into the distance from his high perch atop his dad’s 
shoulder.

He uses the binoculars “to make things look better when they’re so far away,” Theodore 
explained.

On Saturday, he used the binoculars to get a closer look at the science-lovers all around him. He and his parents, Brent and Kori Williamson, joined an estimated 10,000 people in Indianapolis for one of many Marches for Science taking place across the nation on Earth Day.

Theodore already knows he wants to be a paleontologist because of his interest in dinosaurs. He loves science, particularly shows like Bill Nye and “The Magic School Bus,” Brent said.

Theodore said he is especially interested in the science of dinosaurs and science “that can save the world from flooding so much.”

At the march Saturday, which began at Bicentennial Plaza on the west side of the Statehouse, there were all kinds of science-lovers present.

There were other parents, some walking slowly beside their ambling children, like the Williamsons, who expalained to them how things like global warming work.

There were also entrepreneurs of technology startup companies, professors, scientists and attorneys, said Rufus Cochran, one of three event co-chairs for March for Science Indianapolis.

Cochran said he wanted to make sure everyone knew the march wasn’t just for Ph.D. students in lab coats.

“Science touches so many more people than that,” he said.

Cochran said he began mentally planning the march in the middle of the night a few months ago when he was scrolling through Reddit and saw ideas beginning to pop up for the other marches around the country.

Cochran, his wife and the third co-chair, Sarah McAmis, just set up a platform for people to start their stories, and everything sort of spiraled from there, Cochran said.

The recent political climate has caused tension in science communities around the country because President Trump has proposed to make huge cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and encouraged censorship among its employees.

“We see all of the benefits that science gives us, and that comes from an open and free dissemination of information,” Cochran said. “We decided we can’t sit by anymore.”

Before the march began, eight speakers stood elevated on the Statehouse steps and rallied the crowd.

First up was Sheral Anderson, who spoke on behalf of Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana.

She read a statement from the senator to the enthusiastic crowd to thank them for attending.

Among the speakers was also Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council.

At the federal level there has been an unprecedented assault on science, Kharbanda said.

Proposed EPA cuts would do damage to areas such as water quality, environmental justice and climate protection, among other things, he said.

Kharbanda said at the state level there are just 50 people overseeing more than 4,000 public drinking water systems, and this year, lawmakers ignored the HEC’s efforts to increase staffing in that area.

“How do we respond as a nation and as a state?” Kharbanda asked the crowd.

“Vote them out,” someone yelled out.

Everyone must be a science-driven, engaged citizen, Kharbanda answered. He encouraged listeners to write to Gov. Eric Holcomb and ask him to veto Senate Bill 309, a piece of legislation that will slowly eliminate net metering, a huge solar incentive, if signed by the governor.

“Our journey to create a government where the highest decisions are driven by science will be hard,” Kharbanda said.

“Truth can win in our quest for meaningful action,” he continued, and the crowd cheered.

Rae Schnapp, conservation director at the Indiana Forest Alliance, also made reference to legislation that had been active in this past session.

Senate Bill 420, 
championed by the IFA, would have designated 10 percent of every Indiana state forest as “old forest area,” free from logging, but the bill didn’t pass through committee.

Schnapp told the crowd of a recent IFA documentation of the biodiversity in one small tract of Morgan-Monroe State Forest.

They found more than 1,400 species in one small tract of land, she said.

“All science is incomplete,” Schnapp said. “It’s a work in progress. Often, demands for scientific proof are just delay tactics for 
inaction.”

After the speakers 
finished, the crowd began its trek from Bicentennial Plaza to the Earth Day Indiana celebration in Military Park.

Protesters held up signs as they walked. Many said “There is no Planet B,” or “I’m with Her,” with an arrow pointed to a drawing of Earth.

One sign said “Don’t grab my lab!” in reference to an unearthed 2005 tape in which Trump can be heard saying he grabs women “by the pussy.”

Tami Coleman, from Anderson, Indiana, stood with her sign high when the crowd began to reach its destination, where white tents were set up for the festivities. The sound of a drum troupe came from a nearby awning.

“Don’t tread on me,” her sign said — however, the image paired with the words wasn’t the standard snake, now often synonymous with libertarian or far-right politics. It was a tree.

Coleman is a New Englander, and she said she’s tired of people co-opting New England symbols, like the Gadsden flag, to further their causes.

She stood proudly with her sign as people pointed and took pictures.

“I’m just sick of this,” Coleman said. “I am just so sick of rational thought being under attack.”

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March for Science Indianapolis estimates 10,000 people attended its march Saturday. It was one of many marches in the name of science across the country. Alexa Chryssovergis Buy Photos

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Indianapolis residents Carey and Keith Gaskill hold up their signs before the March for Science began on Saturday morning. Keith Gaskill is a geochemist in Indianapolis. Alexa Chryssovergis Buy Photos

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