Many stood outside the Capitol building in Washington and Congress two weeks ago to protest the shutdown that kept hundreds of thousands of government workers out of work without pay, and then vowed to continue their activism. And many of those lawmakers were among those who traveled to Washington, DC, on Wednesday for the Inaugural March for Science.
But one man stood out as a notable presence among those in attendance.
Twenty-four-year-old Benjamin Jenkins, who is a young Baltimore native and an F.B.I. informant in Baltimore, took to the steps of the U.S. Capitol as a visible voice for the many scientists and others who did not have to go on furlough during the shutdown.
Jenkins and other scientists, including a microbiologist, a botanist and a geochemist, have for months coordinated weekly demonstrations held at several sites in Washington and are planning more in the coming months. Jenkins joined them when they first staged the demonstrations and said they were an important to have the vocal base of support and honorees at the inaugural march.
Jenkins said he came to D.C. to be part of a group of scientists who have been working together to create a platform to explain why they are advocating for scientific principles in a society that has been under pressure over the president’s “lack of knowledge” and how the administration could affect science in various ways. Jenkins has testified in front of congressional committees, and spoken about science and the new administration’s actions at numerous events, including those that were planned on Thursday during the opening day of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.
Jenkins said his reasons for attending the inaugural march were not about him. He joined because it was “meant to be” and “felt like it was important for our peers to be here.” “What I thought would really make a difference is for many scientists to come together and voice the needs we have. It is important for all the scientists to be here and speak their own minds.”
“Without scientists, all of this wouldn’t exist. And there are not a lot of people fighting for them,” he said.
Jenkins has accepted that if his job ends, he won’t be paid and he will “have to be creative.” He said he doesn’t fear losing a job, in fact he is more “likely” to work, but rather feels “emboldened” that other people can stand up for what they believe in even if they may have a lower status.
“It gives us the strength to fight for what we believe in and our future,” he said.