Nonviolence does not equal complacency

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

Originally posted at PoliZeros.

I went to a protest in Philadelphia this past Saturday, and it was more disheartening than anything else.  It was against the wars and various other injustices, with a special focus on he recent FBI raids of peace activists and Pennsylvania Homeland Security spying on innocent civilians and activists.

By the end of it, I kind of just felt like going up to the megaphone and asking, “How much moral outrage can one person muster?  There are more people handing out fliers here than not, and with this country committing so many disgusting, outrageous acts, I don’t blame you.”  I won’t lie, I handed a few out myself.  Yet the contrast between the righteous causes featured in the speeches and on the signs and on the fliers and the, as a fellow protester said to me, “complete lack of solidarity” was striking.

However, I don’t believe that we should stop protesting or that we need to find another way to be activists (although protesting is by no means the only way to be an activist).  Old fashioned protests have always worked and they will continue to work.  But what I went to Saturday – and it is similar to many other antiwar protests I’ve been to, and I’m sure it’s similar to many other demonstrations by progressives, socialists, and the like – was too lethargic, too focused on recruiting for outside groups (like the ANSWER Coalition, as Bob has focused on before), and too passive to do anything other than serve as a large meeting for peace supporters.

The only thing we shut down was part of a bike lane and half a road in the business district of Philadelphia.  No one really cared, although we got some positive honks from drivers and some of them were probably annoyed.  Maybe that could be the antiwar movement’s new slogan:  “We’ll slightly inconvenience you until the wars, the empire, the torture, the spying, the ecological destruction, and the general disrespect toward life is over!”

When I got home, I saw this video on the blog Docudharma, which just compounded my feelings:

In France, the nation is being shut down.  Why?  Because the retirement age could be raised by two years.  Even then, it would still be three years younger than what it is in America!  Not to mention, similar protests are happening all over Europe.

In the comments at Docudharma, I said something similar to what I’m saying here, and I got a good reply, from user Activist Guy.  You can read the whole thing here, but basically he said screw the permit or march at night and bang on pots and pans or go through neighborhoods where this affects people instead of the business district.  And he’s right.  The protests in Europe are, for the most part, nonviolent.  Yet they are incredibly effective because of their numbers and their tactics.

For now, the antiwar movement doesn’t have numbers.  Neither do most movements, because we’ve become a very passive nation.  So we must utilize the numbers we do have, whether through coordinated civil disobedience (not just getting arrested for show, but actually affecting others’ lives, by doing things like blocking off streets without permission) or well-organized protests that emulate groups such as the militant Wobblies, who utilized their small numbers incredibly effectively.  In any case, we’ve got to get the energy back.  That is what will bring people into the movements, and show them that the alternative to the failure of Washington is not copping out and becoming even more passive, but taking politics into their own hands.


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    • rossl on October 17, 2010 at 20:43
  1. Here’s one where (1) they make noise outside the Parliament building to make sure there’s no way they can be ignored, and (2) a protester uses the diversion created to actually climb up onto the Parliament building and replace the Icelandic flag with the banner of the grocery chain owned by the finance minister.

    Here’s another where they use the cover of night and banging on pots and pans to get an arrested protest leader  released, who then, right in front of the cops, calls for a revolution. Note how the popular response to his call suggests they’ve gained a sense of their own power:

    And finally, they make their revolution, peacefully but militantly:

  2. … and the people who are still relatively well off know exactly why this economy crashed and are so far successful in making up the alternative narrative thanks to the messaging of Fox news and the Tea Party.

    Entire Dem Party, at least the anti war contingent, was snookered by many of these candidates.

    There’s no draft yet.  The younger generation will never be anywhere like the older unless that happens.

    You won’t get protests until the first time the current President caves to some of these Tea Party Repubs and their crazy sh*t, that he’s going to get stuck with after January.  

  3. and their progress was interrupted by something called WWII.  From that point of reference in time this means that barring the globalist parasites of the EU the sociopaths have had less time by which to enforce their globalist sociopathicness.

    • RUKind on October 19, 2010 at 06:15

    We have the best organizing tool ever invented – the internet. Why can’t we put together an angry, cohesive protest of 50,000 – 250,000?

    We’re getting fucked eight ways from Sunday by the Republicans and Obama and the Dems. Why are we so impotent?

    I’d really like an answer on this.

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