The blasts of a tuba, the cracks of a snare drum and the booms of a bass drum urged voters to the polls in Downtown Brooklyn this Tuesday afternoon on the last day of a fraught election season.
The musical ensemble—which also included a tambourine, organizers who sang over megaphones and eventually a trombone—marched along with a group of approximately 50 protesters through the streets near Barclays Center, an arena-turned-polling-site.
“This is a ‘vote test’ to encourage people to vote,” Rodrick Covington, a 40-year-old organizer, said in an interview over the crackle of a nearby megaphone.
The “vote test” came during the final hours of a presidential election that follows a summer of widespread protest in the city. While small in comparison to demonstrations in early June and peaceful despite the worries of local shopkeepers, it was a direct echo of the energy tens of thousands had exhibited in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“From the streets, we get to take it to the vote,” said Covington in a speech to protesters as the march began in Cadman Plaza Park.
The owners of the Instagram account @uniteny2020 coordinated the march and have organized other demonstrations in support of the Black Lives Matter movement during the summer, including actions on July 4 and Juneteenth.
Police followed the late afternoon demonstration closely from behind while marchers blocked traffic and exhorted onlookers to the polls.
“Anyone who is doing anything to encourage people to vote is all right in my book,” said Aushin Raswant, who lives in Boerum Hill and was helping open up a bar on Atlantic Avenue as the marchers passed by.
For some of the protesters participating in the march, it was less a question of encouraging people to vote and more one of finding something to do during an election that many have found anxiety-inducing.
“I also almost had a panic attack on my couch,” said Victoire Scherer, a 25-year-old Bedford-Stuyvesant resident. “So I just wanted to get outside and be with other people and take a walk.”
Asked whether she was still having a panic attack after having marched across Downtown Brooklyn, Scherer laughed.
“I feel better,” she said. “My stomach isn’t hurting anymore, too.”