Tag Archives: protest

Protest marches aren’t what they used to be: What does size mean?

27 Jan

A protest does not have power just because many people get together in one place. Rather, a protest has power insofar as it signals the underlying capacity of the forces it represents.

Consider an analogy from the natural world: A gazelle will sometimes jump high in the air while grazing, apparently to no end — but it is actually signaling strength. “If I can jump this high,” it communicates to would-be predators, “I can also run very fast. Don’t bother with the chase.”

Protesters are saying, in effect, “If we can pull this off, imagine what else we can do.”

But it is much easier to pull off a large protest than it used to be. In the past, a big demonstration required months, if not years, of preparation. The planning for the March on Washington in August 1963, for example, started nine months earlier, in December 1962. The march drew a quarter of a million people, but it represented much more effort, commitment and preparation than would a protest of similar size today. Without Facebook, without Twitter, without email, without cellphones, without crowdfunding, the ability to organize such a march was a fair proxy for the strength and sophistication of the civil rights movement.

Tufekci goes on to point out that, sure, organizing the Women’s march took a lot of work, “However, as with all protests today, the march required fewer resources and less time spent on coordination than a comparable protest once did.” She goes on to mention the anti-war protests of February 2003, “at that point, likely the largest global protest in history”, and the Occupy protests of 2011, “held in about 1,000 cities in more than 80 countries”. Both of these protests, and others, have had relatively little practical impact.

This doesn’t mean that protests no longer matter — they do. Nowadays, however, protests should be seen not as the culmination of an organizing effort, but as a first, potential step. A large protest today is less like the March on Washington in 1963 and more like Rosa Parks’s refusal to move to the back of the bus. What used to be an endpoint is now an initial spark.

She then goes on to mention the Tea Party protests of 2009, noting:

But the Tea Party protesters then got to work on a ferociously focused agenda: identifying and supporting primary candidates to challenge Republicans who did not agree with their demands, keeping close tabs on legislation and pressuring politicians who deviated from a Tea Party platform.

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Sometimes David Brooks Makes Sense: After the Women’s March

24 Jan

In the first place, this movement focuses on the wrong issues. Of course, many marchers came with broad anti-Trump agendas, but they were marching under the conventional structure in which the central issues were clear. As The Washington Post reported, they were “reproductive rights, equal pay, affordable health care, action on climate change.”

These are all important matters, and they tend to be voting issues for many upper-middle-class voters in university towns and coastal cities.

Alas and alack:

But this is 2017. Ethnic populism is rising around the world. The crucial problems today concern the way technology and globalization are decimating jobs and tearing the social fabric; the way migration is redefining nation-states; the way the post-World War II order is increasingly being rejected as a means to keep the peace.

All the big things that were once taken for granted are now under assault: globalization, capitalism, adherence to the Constitution, the American-led global order. If you’re not engaging these issues first, you’re not going to be in the main arena of national life.

There it is again, the problems of the nation-state.

Now he gets down to the nitty-gritty:

Without the discipline of party politics, social movements devolve into mere feeling, especially in our age of expressive individualism. People march and feel good and think they have accomplished something. … It’s significant that as marching and movements have risen, the actual power of the parties has collapsed. Marching is a seductive substitute for action in an antipolitical era, and leaves the field open for a rogue like Trump.

Alas, he’s right: “Identity-based political movements always seem to descend into internal rivalries about who is most oppressed and who should get pride of place.” But I’m not at all sure about Brooks’s prescription:

If the anti-Trump forces are to have a chance, they have to offer a better nationalism, with diversity cohering around a central mission, building a nation that balances the dynamism of capitalism with biblical morality.

Can “the nation” be repaired in that way? Color me skeptical.

From Tibet to Taiwan, China’s Outer Regions Watch Hong Kong Protests Intently – NYTimes.com

6 Oct

BEIJING — As hundreds of protesters continue to occupy the streets of Hong Kong, challenging China’s Communist Party leaders with calls for greater democracy, much of the world anxiously awaits signs of how Beijing will react to their demands.

But the anticipation is perhaps most keenly felt along the periphery of China’s far-flung territory, both inside the country and beyond, where the Chinese government’s authoritarian ways have been most apparent.

Among Tibetans and Uighurs, beleaguered ethnic minorities in China’s far west, there is hope that the protests will draw international scrutiny to what they say are Beijing’s broken promises for greater autonomy.

The central government’s refusal to even talk with pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong, exiled activists add, also highlights a longstanding complaint among many ethnic minority groups in China: the party’s reliance on force over dialogue when dealing with politically delicate matters.

via From Tibet to Taiwan, China’s Outer Regions Watch Hong Kong Protests Intently – NYTimes.com.

What’s happening in Egypt now

6 Dec

This post is from a Muslim woman in Cairo who does not like what the current government is doing. The violence is not being adequately reported. Read her post. Here’s the first several paragraphs:

Open any international newspaper today and read a misleading, watered-down version of the truth.

Muslim Brotherhood supporters clash with protestors, Morsi’s backers and rivals battle in streets of Cairo, Egypt descends further into political turmoil – these are all spins on what is really happening here.

The truth is uglier and more unsettling. This is not about two factions battling each other. This is about a well organized and devious militant militia, with members that carry pictures of al Qaida and Bin Laden, who yesterday went to disrupt a peaceful protest with guns, ammunition and gas. I saw them attacking women and men of different backgrounds who stood opposed to them, in the most violent way.

This is not about Egypt being divided. Yes, we are a diverse and populous nation and we will not all agree on everything, socially or politically. But this is about one faction that wants to bring a war against everyone who does not belong to or endorse their version of Islam. I am a Muslim woman and they label me a crusader and an infidel because I do not support their view of Islam.

We stood in peace. We came as we had come on Tuesday 4th December to express our outrage at the draft Constitution that the President and his supporters want to pass and the sweeping powers he has accorded himself, but we came peacefully. Tuesday evening and the huge march towards the presidential palace, which thousands joined, provide ample evidence of that. Crowds of us assembled, stretching as far as the eye could see. We carried lights and flags; we chanted; the atmosphere was full of hope and unity. Like the best times of the Revolution, we felt a sense of possibility for the future of our country and conviction that only by challenging Morsi’s bullying, authoritarian tactics could this possibility become a reality.

 

Behind Nuclear Breach, a Nun’s Bold Fervor – NYTimes.com

11 Aug

She has been arrested 40 or 50 times for acts of civil disobedience and once served six months in prison. In the Nevada desert, she and other peace activists knelt down to block a truck rumbling across the government’s nuclear test site, prompting the authorities to take her into custody.

She gained so much attention that the Energy Department, which maintains the nation’s nuclear arsenal, helped pay for an oral history in which she described her upbringing and the development of her antinuclear views.

Now, Sister Megan Rice, 82, a Roman Catholic nun of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, and two male accomplices have carried out what nuclear experts call the biggest security breach in the history of the nation’s atomic complex, making their way to the inner sanctum of the site where the United States keeps crucial nuclear bomb parts and fuel.

via Behind Nuclear Breach, a Nun’s Bold Fervor – NYTimes.com.

Cops Paint Over Inwood Mural That Depicts NYPD as ‘Murderers’ – DNAinfo.com New York

29 Jul

INWOOD — The NYPD dispatched cops with paintbrushes to cover up a controversial mural on the side of an Inwood business Tuesday, after approaching the owner with concerns about its message, DNAinfo.com New York has learned.

A pair of plainclothes officers arrived at New Edition Cleaners at 4929 Broadway at 11 a.m. Tuesday, armed with buckets of black paint, rollerbrushes and drop cloths, and began painting over local graffiti artist Alan Ket’s five-day-old mural titled “Murderers.” The two identified themselves as police to a reporter.

The mural, which included the word “murderers” painted above several tombstones and coffins with epitaph names that included the NYPD, the Environmental Protection Agency and global corporations including Halliburton and Monsanto, was painted on the wall of the business with the permission of its owners.

SEE MORE PHOTOS

Officers visited the store on Monday, telling owners that the painting needed to come down and calling the message a “bad idea.”

via Cops Paint Over Inwood Mural That Depicts NYPD as ‘Murderers’ – DNAinfo.com New York.

Occupy Activists Resurrect May Day for Americans | The Nation

2 May

In April, a coalition of unions, environmental groups, community organizing networks — including National People’s Action, PICO, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, Jobs with Justice, National Domestic Workers Alliance, Rainforest Action Network, SEIU, United Food and Commercial Workers, AFL-CIO, Communication Workers of America, MoveOn, Unite Here, Common Cause, the Steelworkers union Public Campaign, Public Citizen, Health Care for America Now, the United States Students Association, and others—began a series of protest actions major banks and corporations, and trained close to 100,000 new recruits in civil disobedience tactics.

In April they showed up (and some got arrested) at Cigna, General Electric and Wells Fargo shareholder meetings. In the next month, they plan to make their voices heard at Verizon, Bank of America, Hyatt, Tesoro, Sallie Mae, Walmart and other corporate annual meetings. They will commemorate May Day with actions at several corporate headquarters and stockholder meetings as part of this ongoing “99% Spring/99% Power” campaign that will continue throughout the summer and into the election season with demands that corporations pay their fair share of taxes, big banks end the epidemic of foreclosures and reduce “underwater” mortgages to their fair market values, and that banks and Congress unleash college students from unprecedented debt from student loans. By keeping the heat on, and gaining visibility, they hope to inject these issues into the upcoming election season.

via Occupy Activists Resurrect May Day for Americans | The Nation.

Arrests on Lower East Side as May Day Protests Spread – NYTimes.com

1 May

And that’s not all. Action in California too:

The May Day demonstrations took place across the country and in countries across the globe.

In the Bay Area in California, marches and protests snarled traffic and caused road closures. Hundreds marched through Oakland, temporarily closing streets and bank branches and clashes with officers in riot gear, who deployed tear gas on crowds.

Service to the Golden Gate Ferry service, used by many commuters from Marin County, Calif. to San Francisco, was shut down after workers in bitter contract negotiations over health insurance coverage went on strike and picketed ferry terminals.

via Arrests on Lower East Side as May Day Protests Spread – NYTimes.com.

Urban Revolution is Coming — Occupy Wall Street

29 Apr

Max Rivlin-Nadler interviews David Harvey in Salon.

Geographer and social theorist David Harvey, the distinguished professor of anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and one of the 20 most cited humanities scholars of all time, has spent his career exploring how cities organize themselves, and when they do, what their achievements are. His new book, “Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution,” dissects the effects of free-market financial policy on urban life, the crippling debt of middle- and low-income Americans and how runaway development has destroyed a common space for all city dwellers.

Beginning with the question, How do we organize a whole city? Harvey looks at how the current credit crisis had its root in urban development, and how this development has made any political organizing in American cities virtually impossible in the past 20 years.

The right ot the city:

So when I talk about the right to make the city more after our heart’s desire, and what we’ve seen in New York City over the last 20-30 years, it’s been the heart’s desire of the rich folk. Back in the ’70s it was the Rockefeller brothers for example, who were the big players. Now we have people like Bloomberg, and essentially, they make the city in a way that is convenient to them and their businesses. But the mass of the population has almost no influence over this process. There are nearly a million people in this city who are trying to get by on $10,000 a year. What influence do they have over the kind of city that is being built? None at all. Continue reading

Five Ways to Support Re-Occupation | The Nation

17 Apr

Empowered by a federal court ruling that allows protesters to legally sleep on public sidewalks, as long as they don’t block building entrances or take up more than half of the available space, #SleepfulProtest is proving to be an effective new tactic helping speed Occupy Wall Street’s re-emergence into the streets and public spaces of the US. (My colleague Allison Kilkenny recently explained and explored this new strategy.)

It’s been so effective, in fact, that this morning at 6:00 am the NYPD, in direct defiance of the 2000 decision Metropolitan Council Inc. v. Safir, which held “public sleeping as a means of symbolic expression” to be constitutionally protected speech, raided the corner across from the New York Stock Exchange where Occupiers have been sleeping. A motion for an emergency injunction against NYPD disruption of the sidewalk protests was filed this morning.

In the meantime, here are five ways you can help support the Re-Occupation of America:

1. Go to Wall Street to join the Occupiers if you can….

2. Spread the word.  …

3. Donate to Occupy Wall Street through its website. …

4. Get ready for the May 1 actions. This is expected to be a major day of resistance on many fronts and of many forms. Do something!

5. Help save Chicago’s Woodlawn Mental Health Clinic.

via Five Ways to Support Re-Occupation | The Nation.