The lost art of protesting

From demonstrations and riots in Ferguson and Baltimore to May day protests in Seattle, Americans everywhere are pissed off and not going to take it anymore. At least, that’s how it seems. Protesters are really making their voices heard, screaming and shouting and waving signs.

Then, we have the rioters. It’s debatable whether or not rioters are trying to bring about any social change or address the issues by going out and looting liquor stores and getting handfuls of Nikes, but one way or another, absolutely no positive change can come from violence and destruction of property.

Rioters – at least in Baltimore – don’t stop there, and attack other individuals. One picture making the rounds on the Internet shows an older white gentleman with writing on his shirt decrying the state of affairs and affirming that Black lives matter, after being attacked with a hammer. No matter how one looks at it, attacking a demonstrator who wishes to eliminate injustice and pain and suffering is nothing but counterproductive.

So what is effective demonstration? Obviously, beating the crap out of someone fighting for justice and equality isn’t effective, but what about the signs and chanting and marching?
To me, both activities are equally useless. Marching and sign-waving is just as likely to bring about equality and justice as burning and looting is. Back in the day, people actually knew how to protest to make something happen.

The most egregious example of ineffective protesting is the Eric Garner case from New York. Eric Garner’s offense was selling single cigarettes, a crime that ended up costing him his life. In response, what did the city do? Walked around a lot with signs. As if nobody was aware that Black lives matter.

Do these protesters believe that if enough people see a small blurb on a sign, all the systemic causes of inequality and police brutality will evaporate? Will politicians decide to ignore the millions of dollars in lobbyist money because people walk around? What boggles my mind is that people believe that marching will do anything.

Civil disobedience is a lost art. The absolute first thing that should have happened in a demonstration for Garner is to do exactly what he did. Trying to feed your kids isn’t a crime. Regulating the market to the point of strangling the life out of it so that individuals are forced to sell loosies on the street corner ought to be a crime. Every New Yorker who believed in justice for Garner should have gone out and sold loose cigarettes on the street.

What would the police have done when thousands upon thousands of people started breaking the law? The system would break down. Police departments aren’t designed to handle huge influxes of detainees.

Like the sit-ins and bus boycotts of the civil rights movement, protesting needs to be, above all, disruptive. Not only that, but disruptive to the right people. Some quote unquote activists think that blocking traffic is a good way of bringing about change.

This is just as idiotic as looting and burning down a city – causing pain and hardship to ordinary citizens who under other circumstances would agree that police brutality is an issue.

Causing pain and hardship to those who directly are responsible? That is where effective protesting can truly shine. Flood police stations, and disrupt the seat of local government. Create a massive sit-in at city hall. Protest at the residences of leadership, even.

The possibilities are endless to bring the fight to those directly responsible for current injustice and those with the power to fix it. Nobody whose opinion matters is at all affected by rioting, looting or marching.

Too many citizens have been misled by footage of the civil rights movement of the ‘60s. Progress isn’t achieved through simple marching. Progress is achieved through conflict, making those who do not feel the consequences of their actions directly feel those consequences.

Without direct pressure on those who are responsible and have power, any movement trying to achieve anything is simply going backwards.