Lessons about protest

I have been thinking about the Minutemen Protest at Columbia University. The clip from the CTV is pretty good.

I think people can look at this clip and the other news coverage of this event and learn a lot. I want to point out lessons about protest to the protesters. Looking at the footage of the protest and what the protest leaders said is really eye-opening.

I should say before hand that I do not agree with the Minutemen. I am pro-immigration. I think that you cannot address illegal immigration without addressing poverty in the countries where the immigrants are coming from. I think there are a lot of things our government can do to improve immigration in America.

That being said, I would be embarrassed if I was a Columbia student or alumni after the actions at the speech of the founder of the Minutemen. Lets look at some of the lessons in protest from the event.

Lesson 1: Assault is not a non-violent act - I can hear you now, but Rich we stormed the stage we did not hit anyone, we need to hit someone for it to be an assault. You do not need to hit someone for it to be assault. You have to make someone think that you might hit them.

2 a : a threat or attempt to inflict offensive physical contact or bodily harm on a person (as by lifting a fist in a threatening manner) that puts the person in immediate danger of or in apprehension of such harm or contact

Cross a barrier and storming a stage is not a non-violent protest act. The same way yelling at someone telling them they are going to hell is not a non-violent protest act. It is like the Daily Show Clip of the event shows, If you jump up on stage you might just get hit by Keith Richards guitar.

Lesson 2: Protests are about getting people to agree with you - In the end, there is only one reason to have a protest, to get other people to agree with your point of view. You dislike the message of the Minutemen. The way to beat the Minutemen is to get make them marginality in society.

If you are protesting to make yourself feel good you are wasting your time. If you are doing a protest like this to energize your base, the price is way too high. You

Lesson 3: Don't take the bait - In the news story the leaders of the protest talk about the leaders of the college republicans sending provocative e-mails before the speech. Right now video and photos of your actions are being used by republican fund raisers. They are using your actions to say crazy things about the left, Ivy League schools, and the left are trying block people on the right from being heard. Your protest is helping them raise money.

Lesson 4: Shouting down your opposition rarely works - In the Columbia TV clip one of the protest leaders says that he had the right to drown out the other speaker. Most Americans do not agree with this. Most Americans think that freedom of speech includes the ability to be heard. Shouting people down just gives them more credibility. More people will want to hear what they are saying and why someone does not want them to hear them. Most of the time this just brings more attention to your opponent. It is often more effective to let your opponents own words hang them. This would have happened with the head of the Minutemen if you let it.

Lesson 5: Protests are as much about perception as reality - In the end it does not really matter what happened. The truth is often the first casualty of the news. I know that is sad that it happens that way. What happened is important, but what people think about what happened is more important. The most control you have of this is before the protest. You have to play your protest knowing this.

To quote John Stewart, "congratulations protesters, you've managed to made Sean Hannity seem like the reasonable one"


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