The Decade We Marched for Our Lives

In this oral history of seven movements that defined the 2010s, activists remember how, and why, they started the fight

Max Ufberg
Published in
13 min readDec 12, 2019

This piece is part of The Whiplash Decade, a package on the wild ride that was the 2010s.

ItIt would be untrue to our generational forebears to suggest this was the decade Americans learned to protest. We’ve long relied on public demonstrations to make progress in everything from racial and gender equality to worker protections. The 2010s were, however, the decade when protest went mainstream. Credit rising income inequality, fears over a warming planet, increasing gun violence, a president who is known as a bully and a rapist, an administration hell-bent on stripping away health care and the ability to travel freely, and perhaps more than anything else, social media’s ability to help people air their grievances and mobilize around them.

GEN spoke with seven activists about their rise to action in the 2010s: how they organized, how they used media, and the toll that this essential and exhaustive work took on their mental health. The work of these seven individuals, and the movements they participated in, has significantly shaped the course of U.S. policy this last decade, and has made us rethink the way we stand up for the values we hold most dear.

Alexis Goldstein, participant, Occupy Wall Street (2011)

I showed up at Zuccotti park around week three. I’d heard about the plans for the protest on Facebook and was extremely skeptical. “That’s not going to work,” I thought. “The police will immediately kick them out.” But it was still going strong, almost a month later. What motivated me to show up was when the NYPD kettled and pepper-sprayed three young women. This is really messed up, I thought. I started coming down to the park for a few hours every day.

Carmen Perez, co-founder, The Women’s March (2017)

The woman who initially posted about the march on her Facebook page, Hawaiian grandmother Theresa Shook, had given her permission to Bob Bland and other women to move forward with the march…



Max Ufberg
Writer for

Writer and editor. Previously at Medium, Pacific Standard, Wired