Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
 
New (Old) Ways to Protest?

The recent post about activism, and subsequent discussion has me thinking about the effectiveness of protest in general. One of the things that really saddened me about the Iraq war protests is that despite the massive number of people that marched, and called, and contacted the administration, including the largest protest the world has ever seen, it all seemed to make no difference - Congress passed the resolution, and surprise!, we went to war.

I have been musingTM for some time that what we need is a new way to protest. One of the problems, I think, is the fact that is so much easier to arrange a mass protest now than it used to be - with email, text messages, posts on internet boards, etc., it is just easier to arrange large groups of people in one place. Consequently, any one protest doesn't seem as meaningful any more. The March on Washington for example had 250,000 people, and was HUGE by the standards of the time. Now, in the age of Million Man Marches, etc, that number seems smaller.

Similarly, with the abilty to generate auto-emails, blast faxes, etc., a technological protest to a Representative or Senator's office is just as likely to be ignored.

This is why this article from the Boston Phoenix caught my attention. A group of anti-war protesters in Maine have met with what seems to be quite a bit of success using an old form of protest: essentially, the sit down strike.


In December 2004, 13 anti-war activists gathered in Senator Susan Collins’s office in Portland, Maine. They read the names of American soldiers who had died in the Iraq war, as well as an equal number of Iraqi civilians who had died. They occupied Collins’s office for roughly four hours and, before leaving, they asked the senator to hold a "town meeting" to discuss the war with her constituents.

What I thought was interesting about this is that they consiously based this on old sit-down labor strikes from the 1930's:
Gagnon based FVP on the 1930s General Motors sit-down strikes conducted by United Auto Workers in Flint, Michigan. That movement is recognized in activist circles as one of the most important labor strikes in American history, because it was the first time workers seized control of a building from the inside, rather that simply picketing on the outside. The Flint strikes also influenced the civil disobedience used by various protesters in the ’50s and ’60s. Maine’s FVP organizers understand that it belongs to a long, effective tradition of protest.

Of course, it has been updated a bit to include modern technology:
If they don’t get a commitment to a town meeting, or a reasonable promise of one, they make phone calls, send letters, and write e-mails, several times a month, over and over and over, repeating the request. They apply frequent, pointed pressure.

It is the frequent, pointed pressure that I think makes this so effective. By going to the offices and being face to face with the representative, they are not just a seething mass of angst, but real people with real concerns. This form of protest seems to be spreading, and if it continues to be as effective, may be the model for protest in the future. What is old is new again.

Read the whole article here: Peace Corps
 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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Blogs I Read (Or Try To)
113th Street
american footprints(Nadezhda & Praktike)
ANNA's Diary
Apartment Therapy
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Dave Barry
The Bellman
Mine's On The 45 (Brimful)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
ChennaiCentral
ClimateBoy
Combing the Sphere
Crooked Timber
Daily Dose of Imagery
The Daily Rhino (Bong Breaker)
Dark Days Ahead
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Atanu Dey on India's Development (Deeshaa)
Daniel Drezner
Ennis
Ephemera
Cyrus Farivar
Finding My Voice
Forsv
Neil Gaiman
Ganesh Blog
Geeky Chic 2.0 (Echan)
Geomblog
Green Ink!
Heliolith
Alexandra Huddleston
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Indeterminacy
India Uncut
InSpiteOfEverything
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter et al
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Jesus Politics
John and Belle Have a Blog
Mark A. R. Kleiman
KnowProse (Taran Rampersad)
1Locana
Maenad (Nori Heikkinen)
Scott McCloud
Mind Without Borders
Electrolite: Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Corey Pein
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Kevin G. Powell
QuakeHelp (South Asian Quake)
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
Reneebop
Rhinocrisy
Scott Rosenberg(Salon.com)
Rox Populi
Felix(&Rhian)Salmon
samVaad
Nick Schager
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Sepia Mutiny
Amardeep Singh
Snarkmarket (Robin Sloan & Matt Thompson)
South-East Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Blog
SreeTips: New To Sree
Steprous (Bear)
Robert Stribley
Subjunctive.net:klog
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
Tech Policy
TiffinBox
A Tiny Revolution
To The Teeth
TreeHugger
Unfogged
VatulBlog
Venk@
Manish Vij
Vinod's Blog
War and Piece
Nollind Whachell
Wonkette
WorldChanging
Matthew Yglesias:Old
Yglesias:Tpmcafe
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham
Ethan Zuckerman
Zwichenzug



Some Categories

Blogs focusing on policy, politics, and national security:
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Daniel Drezner
Eschaton(Atrios)
Green Ink!
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Informed Comment: Juan Cole
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Irregular Analyses
Jesus Politics
Mark A. R. Kleiman
Liberals Against Terrorism(Nadezhda & Praktike)
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
War and Piece
Wonkette
Yglesias:Tpmcafe

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Daily Dose of Imagery
Ephemera
Alexandra Huddleston
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
TiffinBox

Columbia Journalism Folks
Apartment Therapy
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
Ranajit Dam
Cyrus Farivar
Alexandra Huddleston
InSpiteOfEverything
Corey Pein
Nick Schager
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham

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Scott McCloud


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