The Power Of ProtestOctober 14, 2011 1 Comment
Let’s be real: the non-violent “mind yourself and be polite” types have not won anything yet. You have to be willing to lay in the street, ready to die, for that type of thing to work , and most are not willing to risk much. Not even a night in jail. We are nearing the edge of the cliff. It’s now or never. The system is not going to topple on its own. If we are not willing to fight our way out then we will never get out. — Karen Lindquist
As the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protest gains momentum and spreads to other parts of the world, this grassroots movement, which was originally proposed by Canadian group Adbusters has stimulated debate surrounding the effectiveness of protest.
Big media has been reluctant to report on it, right wing America has sluffed it off– those silly hippies, why don’t they go get a job?– and questions have arisen as to what the objective of Occupy Wall Street even is. But history tells us that the protest does have power, and the more desperate people are for change, the more powerful the protest can be. From the Boston Tea Party of 1773, the Salt March of 1930, 1963′s March on Washington when Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech, the 1969 fall of the Berlin Wall, the Iranian Revolution of 1978, to the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989, protests have proven to change the world, and we’ve been reminded of this recently with the overthrow of Tunisian President, Ben Ali, and the copycat rebellion of Egypt that lead to the resignation of Mubarak. The women’s movement has been no exception, and it was the brazen efforts of female freedom fighters that won us the rights that now shape our reality.
- In July of 1917, suffragists picketing the White House were arrested and jailed at the Occoquan Workhouse. The jailed protestors, who included suffragist leader, Alice Paul, were physically abused and force fed through feeding tubes. Press coverage of the abuses they endured, in addition to ongoing demonstrations, led to the solidification of the 19th Amendment in 1920.
- Black women were the key organizers of the March on Washington of 1963 and were among those arrested during a civil rights march in Birmingham, Alabama of the same year. Kudos to Rosa Parks who demonstrated the potential power of individual acts of protest.
- On August 26, 1970, 50,000 women marched in New York for “Women’s Strike for Equality.” Another 100,000 women participated throughout various cities around the U.S.
- Marches in regards to the Equal Rights Amendment began in 1976 and continued throughout 1980. In 1977, protestors raised 1.7 million for the campaign.
- As the threat of reproductive rights rose in 1989, the March for Women’s Lives in Washington drew crowds of 600,000 in April, 350,000 in the fall, and 750,000 abortion rights supporters in 1992. These marches brought abortion rights into the political forefront. On April 25, 2004, March for Women’s Lives drew a record breaking 1.15 million people to Washington, D.C. making it the largest protest in U.S. history.
- Originating in Toronto, Canada in April 2011, the Slut Walk, a march protesting the explanatory and excusatory ideologies surrounding rape, have since spread throughout the world.
Occupy Wall Street, which is comprised of a vastly diverse demographic of protestors, represents the beginning of a revolutionary metamorphosis that stems from the growing social dissent of the 99 percent, and is continuing to be reflected in other parts of the world, including Canada. Even though Occupy Wall Street may lack specific demands or leadership, it demonstrates the chronic stress, desperation, and over all discontent felt by everyday citizens in regards to the gap between democracy and capitalism. Coming off of a long run of social apathy, obsessive hyper-materialism, and political and economic complacence, the frustration of the 99 percent is now spilling over into street action, and the power of this protest should not be denied. At minimum, it is a meaningful symbol of unity and strength shared among the common people.
Canadian writer, Naomi Klein, expressed her support of the protest by saying, “This is not the time to be looking for ways to dismiss a nascent movement against the power of capital, but to do the opposite: to find ways to embrace it, support it and help it grow into its enormous potential. With so much at stake, cynicism is a luxury we simply cannot afford.”
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