Constructive Criticism About Unorganized Protests (Peter Jennings, Feb 15)
An argument for minimal organization.
Some recent protests, and a discussion about whether or not protests should be "organized", have compelled me to post this mini diatribe.
Protests do not "just happen", people will not just show up, and actions are not effective without some minimal organization. There are some exceptions--but powerful spontaneous actions are almost always provoked by some outrageous activity (Rodney King, food shortages, your team losing the super bowl).
The almost pathetic turnout at the Peter Jennings protest tonight might be a good example of the weakness of one way of calling for an action--announcing it here. Indymedia is a wonderful form of media, but it is not a movement. It is not a way to organize something. Sure, actions should be announced here, but relying on this website as the main way to get the word out is wrong. Even planning an action here, where the discussion tends to veer off into the most polarized debate instantly is not appropriate. Indymedia is not a community, it's a website.
If you want to organize a protest, at least print up some flyers announcing your event, get the flyers out, maybe post them all over town. Get an email out to some good lists. Get some organizations with some members on board. Make sure there are at least a few people excited about this and inviting their friends and coworkers. Often, it makes sense to call a meeting. Get folks together to talk about it face to face, not online. A group of people agreeing on something makes it more powerful, and more democratic from the start.
I think there is a lot more to making cool stuff happen.
But I am worried that folks are getting too lazy, or too opposed to doing some of the grunt work behind the scenes to make cool stuff happen. The calls for a Feb. 15 action at the North Park Blocks worry me a little. Folks are saying that it doesn't need to be organized, that people should just show up and it will happen. Well, I for one, have been to too many shitty actions. I probably won't show up unless I feel like it will be effective. I don't think it needs to be super organized, with a tactical team, comms sytems, police liasions, etc. but it at least needs to be organized enough so that a decent crowd shows up. No disrespect to the good people who went to the Peter Jennings thing tonight, but it looked a little silly on TV. And I bet the four of five folks out there felt pretty silly, and did not look to convincing to the folks that saw them. As far as I know, this action was only announced here, not on any of the big peace email lists, or announced at any events, etc.
I would love for there to be a powerful, fun, radical action on the 15th. But it needs more than an Indymedia post.
From now on, I will want to know if actions have some of these minimal things in place:
--Has it been called by a group of people, or an organization with a membership, or is it one person's idea?
--Is it being announced anywhere besides on Indymedia?
--Is there a plan? and a point?
I expect to be denounced as an authoritarian, organzation-heavy, close minded, dinosaur, but that's OK. But if folks want to denounce these points, please address the points, not the author. And please back stuff up with concrete eveidence. I cannot think of any powerful, successful actions that did not have some of this minimal organizational stuff behind it. If you know of any, please say so.
Hope this helps.
Again it is meant as CONSTRUCTIVE criticism.
add a comment on this article
add a comment on this article