You’re angry. You want to let the world know just how angry you are. You made the perfect sign – bright neon green with dark black Sharpie slashing your best, most clever rhyme with “resist”, and you can see it from a mile away. You took the day off of work, and you’re going down to the city center with a group of like-minded individuals to make sure your discontent is heard. But do you really know what you are getting yourself into?
You’ve seen some of the (too few) news reports. Cops and protesters clashing, pepper spray and batons flying, sometimes even water cannons. You don’t want any part of that. You just want to exercise your right guaranteed by the 1st Amendment to speak your “peace” (misspelling intended).
You don’t want to run the risk of being arrested. You don’t want to find yourself on the receiving end of any of the multitude of tactics used in brutal police suppression. Or maybe you believe that a few broken windows are counter-productive, but you still want to protest to show how upset you are with the current state of affairs. Here are a couple of tips to make the most of your time marching in the streets with the dirty masses.
Tip #1 – Don’t bother.
Tip #2 – Seriously. Don’t bother wasting your time, or the time and effort of the people who really want to affect change on a fundamental level. Stay home, or at the very least stay out of the way. You can still get Instagram “likes” from the sidelines.
Tip #3 – See #1 and #2.
What good does a State-Approved protest do?
On the day after the Inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States of America, one of the largest protest marches (many say it was the largest) in the history of the nation was held. Conservative estimates put the number of participants in the January 21st Women’s March at 3.2 million nationwide, which is about 1% of the entire US population. Don’t let that number fool you – for protest, which requires a lot of people to willingly contribute their commitment, time, energy, and money, this is impressive to say the least.
This completely blew away the numbers for previously held mass demonstrations, including the Anti-Vietnam War protests in 1969 and 1970, the Anti-Iraq War protests in 2003, the LGBT Solidarity March in 1993, and the famed Million Man March in 1995.These protests had anywhere from several hundred thousand to over 1 million participants. Still no small feat. Imagine the number of people that can fit into an NFL stadium, and then multiply that by 10 and you still would not have 1 million people.
Those protests also had countless more participants worldwide, and the Women’s March was no different. Indeed, it was a global outcry of the US Election results that found a sexist, bigoted, proto-fascist man with sinister dealings and an even more sinister administration rising to control the White House. Millions of people gathered peacefully to express their discontent at the current state of affairs. By all accounts, there was not one arrest made – ostensibly because there was not one instance of violence or property damage – and the general feeling was one of strength through unity and an overall sense that this was something good, something right in the face of all that had gone wrong in the months previous.
It was a great feat of organizing and motivation, a huge accomplishment in the expression of pubic opinion, a monumental achievement of the First Amendment-guaranteed right of the “Freedom to peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances”.
And it was a complete waste of time.
Look, let me be undeniably clear here – I fully and completely support women’s rights, including a woman’s right to determine her own course of medical decisions, the right to equal pay, the right to choose her own partner in marriage, and any other item you want to put on that list that will make women completely autonomous over their own lives, not just in the US but also worldwide. I also fully and completely support the right of women, and all people, to protest anything that violates their autonomy, not just in the US but also worldwide. I also fully appreciate the insane amount of people that stood up for those rights, not just in the US but also worldwide. That was truly amazing, and nothing can take that away.
But, let’s be honest – what did it do? Did it show our discontent with the current state of affairs in the US and much of the world? I guess. Did it show what tremendous support women have for each other? Sure it did. Did it change anything?
Trump is still President, and the policies he is enacting are still atrocious. He recently came out in support of Bill O’Reilly, who is facing the fire regarding years of sexual misconduct. Mike Pence is still Anti-Choice. Planned Parenthood is still being “defunded”. So, did the Women’s March actually change anything? And isn’t that what protest is supposed to do?
Or is protest supposed to be millions of people standing up and saying “We don’t like this… buuuut I guess we’ll just suffer through it because we have no choice and hopefully the next election gets us someone who cares…”? Because that’s pretty much what happened.
Or is it supposed to be a gathering of millions of people who can cheer on other representatives of the exact system that has been oppressing them for centuries? Representatives who are more to our liking because, even though they are part of that system, their way of speaking is more soothing and palatable?
I got no complaints at all about protesting Trump. We should protest Trump. But we shouldn’t stop there, and we definitely shouldn’t stop with just one protest. We should protest the entire system, Republicans and Democrats, the whole god damned Establishment. And we definitely don’t need Pepsi or a Jenner to help us do it.
But what happened on January 21st wasn’t a protest. Not even close.
It was validation of the very system that brought us Trump and his walking, talking bag of feces that he calls a Cabinet.
“What do you mean?!?!? The Women’s March was against everything that Trump stands for!!!” If you can actually remember that day – all of the celebrities on stage, all of the establishment politicians that showed, the EXTREMELY conspicuous absence of a couple of key politicians you would think would certainly make a point to show up and at least march in a show of solidarity – if you can think of all that and say with a straight face that the Women’s March was a protest of everything that Trump stands for, your analysis needs a lot more nuance.
If that is what you truly believe, then what you are failing to realize is that everything that Trump stands for IS ESTABLISHMENT. He is the literal embodiment of the Capitalist system that has resulted in widespread exploitation, oppression, waste, environmental destruction, political corruption, militarized police, and war, war, war, war, war. And the Women’s March was nothing more than a validation that this system is just fine with us.
Not a single arrest. Not a single instance of property destruction. Not a single instance of protesters squaring off with a police line in full riot gear. Everything was peaceful, and nobody was hurt. There was no danger at all.
And this is how we show discontent? Following the rules and staying in the lines drawn for us by the very system that gave us Trump? Meeting the requirements set forth by the very system that has caused the discontent we were supposedly expressing? What a joke.
And all the while, the Corporate Media, with a vested interest in keeping that system intact and keeping us obedient to that system, tells us what a success the Women’s March was. That we really made a difference. And best of all, we did it “the right way”. We followed the rules.
What a joke.
We came together and… did what? Nothing changed. We stayed nonviolent and played right into the Establishment’s hands. Nonviolence does nothing to affect the State, and actually it strengthens their grip. There is a use for nonviolent protest. And the use of nonviolent protest is to show that we can, and will, come together. But what good is coming together if we don’t, or won’t, do anything?
But Gandhi… MLK… John Lennon… They said “Be Peaceful”
Yes, and they understood that the use of nonviolent protest could effect drastic change, but only when used properly. In a speech titled “The Other America” (April 14, 1967, Stanford University), Martin Luther King, Jr said:
“…it is as necessary for me to be as vigorous in condemning the conditions which cause persons to feel that they must engage in riotous activities as it is for me to condemn riots. I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard.”
The use of nonviolent protest is to show that we could do something far more drastic. The point of nonviolent protest is to show that, if things don’t change, we not only can do something more drastic, but that our hand will be forced to do something more drastic.
But over and over we show just the opposite. Like a parent with empty threats to a child – pretty soon the kid knows that mom and dad won’t really punish them for hitting their sibling, they’re just getting loud.
Over and over, peaceful protests are met with political indifference. The Establishment looks down from their perches, saying “Look at the dirty masses, they are still doing as they are told even as they cry out against us”. They know they have control. And we show them that they have control by obeying the guidelines they set out for us. State-Approved protest against the State. How… effective.
There are historical instances where peaceful or nonviolent protest was effective – but only because the threat of violence was very real. The Civil Rights movement had gotten to “a point of no return”, where lawmakers realized that if there wasn’t some real progress made, there would soon be a very real and very uncontrollable problem. And how did they know that? Because, as isolated as the instances may have been, violence had broken out.
Do you think that the Establishment would have felt that way – with their backs against the wall – if every Civil Rights march remained peaceful?
Here’s the thing about it – if you can’t stomach a violent outburst of a discontented populace, there are other ways to support those who can – legal aid, material support, medical assistance, and more. These are all extremely important. You don’t have to be on the front line, but at least support those who are willing to put themselves in harm’s way. You can still help, but trying to “Keep the Peace” isn’t helping, not at this point. Not when “Keeping the Peace” is basically another way of saying “Let the Status Quo Reign Supreme!!!”
Not only that, but sometimes violent outbursts actually help. When Alt-Douche Reichard Spencer got punched in his Nazi-scum face, there was outcry saying “That’s not the way to deal with him!!!” But, now look at him. He’s a joke. Every time he tweets, that video gets posted in the replies. He lost support because of it. An Antifa hero punched him in his face and now he doesn’t have nearly the effect he used to. That’s a good thing.
Bush was a joke before shoe-guy chucked his loafers at the podium, but he was even more of a joke after that. Plus, that video always makes me laugh.
A pie in the face isn’t seen as violence – not really – but, technically, it is assault. And it sure does take the wind out of politician’s sails when it happens to them. And it’s an example of effective violence that isn’t too violent.
And there are other methods of civil disobedience that could be seen as violent that aren’t really. Smashing the windows of a multinational corporate Bank that invested in the DAPL – windows that are definitely insured and that the bank could afford to replace even if they weren’t insured – that is seen as “violent” but doesn’t really hurt anybody and takes a little coin out of the pocket of that symbol of the Establishment. Sometimes violent outburst is the only thing we can resort to when cleverly-worded signs simply won’t do.
We operate our “protests” under fear of what will happen if the protest gets out of hand. That fear is exacerbated by intimidating images of cops in full riot gear lined up to block a protest march. And the brutality of that intimidation is just the beginning. Of course, those cops are just following orders, but so was every fascist that was sentenced to death at Nuremburg, setting a global precedent that “just doin’ my job” is not a justification for brutal and unethical behavior.
When college kids are pepper sprayed indiscriminately for organizing a sit-in…
When #NoDAPL water protectors are blasted with water cannons in freezing temperatures…
A people should not live under fear of their government. A government should operate under fear of their people. But our government is not afraid of us. We have shown them that they have no reason to fear us. We need to make our government afraid again. Or just dissolve it completely, which isn’t the worst idea in the world, and one that I honestly would prefer. No masters, no slaves…
Ultimately, the State-Approved and Capitalist System-validating Women’s March on January 21st didn’t mean a thing. But we can still make it mean something. We can still make every peaceful outcry of dissent against the State, even those that were met with violent and brutal suppression, mean something. But not if our government and its fascist police forces don’t believe that we really do mean it when we say that we’ve had all we can take.
And you know what they say – “actions always speak louder than words…”
Richard Waite is the author and creator of A Mostly Accurate View.