Although Ashley Casale ’10 completed her cross-country “March for Peace” on Sept. 10, her adventures were not yet over. Three days later, she and four fellow peace marchers were arrested at a protest in Washington, DC.

“George Bush was giving a speech, and the idea was to go outside the White House and make as much noise as possible,” said Casale. “Guitars, bongos, singing, whatever we could do.”

Eventually, she and the other protesters broke through caution tape that police had put up and held a sit-in. Casale was arrested, held in jail overnight and then released.

It was only about a year ago, during the first semester of her freshman year, that Casale got the idea for her cross-country march.

“I’ve been against the war in Iraq for a long time,” Casale said. “I was looking to do something that was more than just a small demonstration, something that would really show commitment and dedication to the cause.”

While her goal was to raise awareness, Casale’s cause also garnered unexpected financial support.

“People ended up giving us donations, which was really great, but money wasn’t our main goal,” she said.

Casale began trying to build public support for her march by creating her own website and contacting major peace organizations around the country. One organization, called Not in Our Name, helped Casale by organizing events and prompting media coverage. As responses from people who were interested in participating in the march rolled in, Casale began putting together detailed preparations for the trip.

First, Casale needed to find the best way to travel about 3000 miles from her starting location in California to her ultimate goal: Washington DC.

“One of the hardest parts of planning was figuring out the route,” she said.

The march kicked off on May 21 in San Francisco. Although she began the journey with a handful of other marchers—mostly Californians—by the end of the first week, only one participant, Michael Isaacs, a recent high school graduate, remained at her side for the entire journey. Along the way, many others joined them for a day or two.

“It’s difficult to say how many people were traveling on any given day, especially since things like that changed a lot depending on which part of the country we were going through,” Casale said. “Often in the West it was just the two of us, but near big cities we were sometimes in groups of around 20 or so.”

About halfway across the country, Casale and Isaacs were joined by six others, including one person who volunteered to drive alongside them with their tents and supplies. This group of eight journeyed together to Washington, DC, still occasionally accompanied by other daily marchers.

“Hundreds of people participated in the march over all, just not all at the same time,” Casale said.

She and Isaacs marched roughly 25 miles a day, giving themselves only two days of rest during their entire journey. They would sleep each night in whatever shelter they could find, which often did not amount to all that much.

“Especially in the East, some people had heard about what we were doing and offered to let us sleep in their homes,” Casale said. “But most often we just slept out somewhere on the side of the road.”

Eventually, Casale and the other marchers discovered particularly good sleeping spots—outside churches, inside graveyards and behind restaurants. Casale explained that they rarely had time to consider the potential eeriness of any of their bedtime locales.

“After walking 25 miles a day we would just crash without really worrying about where we were staying,” Casale said.

She recalls one time when their nonchalance nearly got them into trouble. While sleeping in one park in Colorado, they were prodded awake by cops and asked to relocate.

“Apparently there was a lot of crime in that area,” Casale said. “In retrospect, it wasn’t one of our safest nights, but we weren’t really thinking about that at the time.”

As they journeyed through the country, Casale and the other marchers met many people with varying opinions on their cause.

“I think for us the most meaningful part was the people we met,” she said. “We got to interact with a lot of veterans and people who were connected with the war in Iraq personally. It was a really powerful experience.”

As could be expected, however, not all interactions along the way were entirely pleasant.

“Occasionally, particularly in certain areas of the country, we would have people drive by and yell something mean,” Casale said. “One time someone yelled, ‘Dirty hippies. Get off the road!”’

Casale and the other marchers arrived at their destination right on schedule: on Sept. 10 in Washington, DC. This allowed them to participate in a large rally the following day and an even bigger one on Sept. 15, after their Sept. 13 arrest.

Even now that her march is over, Casale is continuing to travel and talk to national media. As much as she loves what she is doing, she hopes to be back on campus soon.

“I’m taking the semester off, but I want to stay involved on campus,” Casale said. “During my time off, I’m going to work on writing a book about my experiences while marching.”

After almost a year of planning and a 3,000-mile trek across America, Casale is happy to say she has few regrets.

“The experience was even more amazing than we expected,” Casale said. “Of course we sometimes got blisters and foot aches and other random pains. But it was definitely worth it.”

Comments are closed