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Hundreds march against Monsanto in downtown Bremerton
Several hundred people from around Kitsap County gathered at Evergreen Park in Bremerton Saturday to protest against the company, Monsanto. From there they marched down Warren Avenue, finishing at the Norm Dicks Government Center.
The event was planned as part of a global initiative called Millions Against Monsanto, in which hundreds of thousands of protestors gathered in more than 400 cities around the world.
The international event has come after years of public protest against Monsanto's use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in crops, which critics say have been shown to cause cancer and health defects.
“We need to get rid of Monsanto all together,” Taylor Niemy said as he addressed the crowd via megaphone. “We need to abolish them.
Niemy organized and led the Bremerton group in its version of the global initiative.
“Right when I saw that they were going to do a march against Monsanto on Facebook, I immediately put up an event page,” Niemy said.
That was almost two months ago. Between the page going up and Saturday's march the Facebook group gathered more than 470 RSVPs.
“It's incredible to see that we've almost got 500 people on Facebook,” Niemy said. “Even if 500 people don't show up, we've got 500 people on Facebook who are paying attention.”
Indeed, 500 people did not show up but there was no shortage of supporters – there were at least 200 marchers.
The group took to the streets on its way to the Norm Dicks building, filling the eastbound lanes of Warren Avenue and chanting things like “Just say no to GMOs.” Niemy asked marchers to keep to one side of the street so they wouldn't impact traffic too negatively.
Before the march, organizers addressed the crowd and then gathered around a grill to burn packets Monsanto's genetically modified seeds.
The burning of the seeds is a “symbolism to basically say that we've had enough,” Niemy said.
Jess Sappington, the membership coordinator for Kitsap Food Co-op, said she participated mainly to educate members of the general public. She believes if people learn about the problems associated with Monsanto they will stop buying their products.
“Once companies like Monsanto feel that (pressure) on their bottom line … companies are going to start to switch how they do things,” Sappington said. “It's all about education.”
Sappington was optimistic that Saturday's march and other protests against Monsanto and genetically modified crops would have an effect.
“It's slowly happening,” she said. “Start to make that little bit of a tipping point to start to make the change.”
While marchers hoped to educate the public Saturday, some education was taking place in other areas. Kirsten Lamonte attends Olympic High School. She said one of her teachers taught about GMOs in her financial literacy class this week.
She said she noticed then how badly education on the topic was needed. She knew about GMOs because of her mother, but no one else in the class had heard of Monsanto, Lamonte said.
The effects of Saturday's march in Bremerton and around the world might not be immediately apparent, but Niemy and others said that change is coming.
“We're not going to win today,” Niemy said. “But we're going to start to win today.”