Monday, May 01, 2006

Of Riots and Protests

May 1, 2006; USA-A nationwide day of pro-immigrant protesters take to the streets.

I've never been involved in a public protest. I prefer to write letters to the editor and e-mails to elected officals; I'm kinda poindexter like that.
I don't think peaceful protests work. As a young jounalist, I was sent to cover a students protesting the rising cost of college. If you are attending school now, or will be sending someone in the future, you know how effective that was.
May Gandhi forgive me, but who has 40 years to wait around for change?
All our major sucessful American protests of the 20th century: Vietnam, Civil Rights, involved some element of violence.
It seems as if injuries have to be sustained and property destoyed in order to bring a measure of credibility to the protester's demands.
That's right, it takes a riot.
From the days of the French Revolution rioting commoners force the powerful to listen.
In the past month, we've seen riots in Nepal and France (those frogs love a little civil disobediance). The rioter's demands were met and pretty damn quickly, too.
It's got to be some intense rush to literally set the establishment on fire.
No wonder rioting is so popular.
Americans have gotten away true rioting. We riot when our team wins the Super Bowl. We think political rioters are crazy.
I say they're not crazy; they're effective.
Let's put it another way: You can hold hands with Cindy Sheehan and wear obnoxious T-shirts, or you can make a Malatov cocktail, and set some tires on fire.
Who would you be more likely to listen to?


At 10:05 AM, Anonymous Catherine Larimer said...

I agree that peaceful protests haven't been effecting change in the USA for many years. Part of the problem, is that they're not organized well enough, also that not enough people are involved. Also, I think we (I am an enthusiastic protester, despite all of these reservations) are annoying the wrong people. Or, perhaps I should say, the focus is not yet on actuating change. I feel that we are still performing for the crowd--protesting for the benefit of the people driving by, in order to generate more interest, thereby collecting converts, to our cause, rather than trying to annoying lawmakers in order to effect change. There are just not enough of us yet who are willing to get out of our cars and make fools of ourselves out on the street.
Another big problem is that if protesting is all just about TALK, politicians won't care, they are too far removed from the street (anyway, protesters definitely fall into the "lunatic fringe," which only comprises %10 of the general population, and probably pays the least amount of taxes out of all of the demographic groups to boot). Part of the reason that the civil rights' protests from the fifties and sixties were so effective, was because they caused business people to lose money. If you were sitting at a lunch counter, you were taking that seat away from a paying customer, not to mention the while customers who wouldn't eat at a diner where people of color were present. The Montgomerey bus protest was another great example--one of the few times in history when it behooved a large group of citizens to be so underpaid that they couldn't afford cars, thus relying on buses--there were so many of them, that the bus system suffered heavy losses of revenue when they were boycotted by people of color.
This is all why it's so important to not cross picket lines. If anyone if picketing a business for any reason, we need to stand together, and deny that business our money. One year, while FDR was president, a birthday party was thrown for him at a hotel in New York City, and his wife, Eleanor, refused to attend because the maids were out front picketing for better working conditions and better pay. Eleanor Roosevelt refused to cross picket lines, even if it meant, as first lady, missing her husbands birthday party. Yet, the party went on, just without her. Think how much more effective her stand would have been, had all of the guests, including the guest of honor, refused to attend. Then it would have been more effective financially for the hotel to take care of it's employees.
Again, I definitely agree that peaceful protests produce very little. We really need to find a way to orgainize ourselves, and to find more effective methods of bringing change. But until we find these methods, I feel that I have to do SOMETHING, aside from ranting at my friends about how frustrated I am. So I take to the streets, and march around, and rant in unison with strangers, and at strangers, and at least it's a way of letting off steam until I find a more effective way of agitating.


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