Why Attend a Protest?

The following is by our friend Delco Feminist. Please find her page on Facebook and support!

Protest, by itself, rarely causes change. Protest has a political role and significance in other cultures and history that it simply does not have in the US. It’s an action that is not available to all, and it isn’t more important or powerful than any number of other forms of political expression. Nonetheless, there are some good reasons to hold or attend a protest.

Meet your neighbors: Attending a protest puts you in touch with the people in your area who not only share your views, but are motivated by them into action. The act of being in the street holding a sign is not itself going to change anything. But those who are able to do so are often the same people who are willing and able to do much more. Connecting with, and building trust with your neighbors is the first step towards building a more significant resistance, and protest attendance is one way to start doing that. I’ve heard it described as the “same 20 people in your town who show up for everything.” In my experience, these are people very worth knowing.

Engage in organized community action: Once you’ve attended a protest, not only have you now met neighbors, but you’ve participated in an organized action with them, even if it’s just holding a sign. This lays the groundwork for further organized action.

Use your voice, express yourself:
Denying the validity of your feelings and perspectives, and your right to have them is one of the fundamental techniques of oppression, and it is very effective in our culture. One powerful method to overcome this is to hear yourself proclaiming and asserting these feelings and views, and doing so in the presence of other supportive people. I have found that when people know you’ve participated in an action, they’re less likely to argue and attack your feelings and perspectives. Action is very difficult for people to argue with. Attending a protest in person brings your body into the action, even if it’s just standing with a sign.

Practice solidarity:
It is healing for you to assert your feelings and perspectives with other supportive people, and it is healing for others to see that they are supported. People who are targeted by repressive policies may be encouraged to know and see other people who are willing to support them, and that there are those who disagree with the actions the government is taking against them. It’s only a first step towards being an ally, but it is a step. Practice solidarity as you protest. Be willing to assist those with mobility issues, and plan events with consideration for them. Make members of marginalized communities feel welcome by refraining from actions like taking selfies with cops, even if the protest is not against police actions. Avoid statements that are ahistorical and non-inclusive such as “we are all descended from immigrants” or “this is not who we (Americans) are.” Practicing these actions will increase your ability to participate in solidarity and will make you stronger as a person and as an ally. Strong allies make a strong community, and strong communities resist oppression more effectively. Solidarity is not just necessary, it is healing.

Learn the limits of your privilege:
Many Americans confuse privilege with power. Privilege is granted to you by the kyriarchy and allows you to dominate or exploit others of lower status. A dependence on privilege instead of power keeps people in their place within the hierarchy. Should you try to take these liberties in a way that challenges the social order, the privilege is immediately revoked. Many people have been awakened to the realities of their social status and its limits by engaging in protest and witnessing protest. For example a white woman who attends a majority black protest against police brutality and sees the difference in her treatment versus that of black protestors. When you become aware of these limits, you become a more effective ally, and strong allies make strong communities. Interacting with people at a protest can sometimes take you into situations outside of your norm. By learning to be accountable for actions that empower oppression, such as misogyny or racism, you become a more effective agent against repression and fascism. By learning to support leadership by people who aren’t usually your leaders in everyday life, you challenge authoritarianism.

Flex your power, gain courage:
Political domination exploits any complicity of those who are dominated. No society can be dominated without some degree of cooperation from within. Authoritarian leaders will use people’s silence as evidence of complicity, and it enables them to intimidate others. It gives authoritarians the appearance of more power. If you have a degree of free and protected speech, flex that muscle. Authoritarian policies are often much less popular and supported than their leaders like to portray. And the effort and political capital spent to manage your speech or protest draws on a finite reserve. Protest gives courage, and it encourages. If it didn’t work, authoritarians wouldn’t spend so much time combating it both rhetorically and with force. Never cede power to authoritarians. Make them fight as hard as possible for everything they want. The rights we don’t exercise in Trump’s US will quietly go away. Don’t let that happen.

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