Thursday, January 15, 2015

A message to protesters

There's a lot of protesting going on these days... some of it quiet, some not so quiet.

Today on my local news the top story was of protesters who had blocked one of the major interstate highways into the city, in two different locations.  The organizers sent press releases to the local news media, and posted that same press release on their facebook page.

The press release states that the purpose of the protest was to "disrupt business as usual".  Ok, mission accomplished.

Protesters -
As a direct result of your actions, court hearings were delayed, doctors appointments were missed, and an untold number of people were late for work.  For some of those people, this will mean that their paycheck this week is docked. The television news showed a huge number of police and firefighters at the scene; hopefully there there were no crimes or fires or other emergencies that were adversely affected because emergency workers were busy being 'disrupted'.  At a minimum, I'm certain that there were large numbers of police and firefighters who will end up getting overtime pay because of this 'disruption'. All those who pay taxes in this state contribute to the pay of those people.

One of your spokesman stated that the purpose of the protest was to get the attention of all those who commute into the city every day and are unaware of the problems that exist.

While you certainly got the attention of those who were caught in the ten-mile backups on the highway, I'm not sure what makes you believe that those affected by your protest are unaware of your concerns. If you're suggesting that they are oblivious to national news  - that's both insulting and unlikely.

Look, I understand all about protests.  And I'm certainly a fan of the freedom of speech.  But it seems to me that the idea of  freedom of speech and the idea behind protests in general is that you're trying to persuade others to your point of view.  And that's fine.  But these protests didn't work that way.

Frankly, if I'm undecided or if I have an opposing viewpoint, protests which specifically carry the purpose of 'disrupting business as usual' are unlikely to move me over to your point of view ---  so you've accomplished nothing.  And if I already share your viewpoint --- you've accomplished nothing.

So, dear protesters...  let's look at what you did accomplish.
You did get a lot of public attention - and that's good.
Most of you got arrested - and in my opinion that's bad.
You interfered with thousands of people who were trying to get to work, to doctor's appointments, and other obligations, many of whom may have already agreed with you - that's another bad.
You cost the taxpayers' money.  Some of those taxpayers are people who you were hoping to bring to your point of view, and other taxpayers are those who already agree with you - another bad.
And you didn't change anyone's mind.  That's 4 bads, to one good.

Let's talk about one of the greatest protests of all time, The Boston Tea Party.  We all learned about this one in school... the Sons of Liberty were protesting 'taxation without representation', and they dumped 46 tons of tea into Boston Harbor in 1773.  Yes, they used axes.  Yes, they destroyed property that didn't belong to them.  But.
Even the East India Company - the victim of the Tea Party - acknowledged that no damage was done to any of the three ships involved, their crews, or anything else on the ships other than the chests of tea. Nothing was stolen or looted.  One of the protesters tried to steal some tea, but was stopped -- by the Sons of Liberty.  After the tea chests were broken open and thrown overboard, the Sons of Liberty swept up any debris that was on the decks of the ships, and anything that had been moved was put back in its proper place.  Not only did no one die, but no one was hurt. With the possible exception of those who were deprived of the tea they might have purchased, the only harm was to 'the other side'.  The actions by the Sons of Liberty got everyone's attention, only one person was ever arrested, and the lives of those who were bystanders were not adversely affected.

Trust me, I'm not advocating the dumping of more tea into Boston Harbor, but I do think the distinctions between the 1773 protest, and today's protests, are notable.  The video feeds showing screaming protesters and then showing those same protesters smirking for the cameras as they were led away, the traffic reports of  miles of unmoving cars, and the facebook posting which cited the goal of 'disruption of business as usual' ...  have all left a sour taste in my mouth.  Protesters - if that was what you were trying to accomplish, then job well done.  But if you were hoping to garner some positive press, and perhaps some policy changes or changes in public opinion, then you've failed miserably.

And on that note, I'll have another cup of tea.


  1. I absolutely agree, and love this posting.

  2. I just had to share this one. Thanks for putting what I've been thinking into the right words.

  3. I protest! Kidding!
    On a similar note, they have now been posting video clips on the evening news here showing the looters during the protests in Ferguson. The police are asking for, and getting, tips to catch these criminals.
    There is a right way to express opinions, and a wrong way...right?!

  4. And from the Boston Tea Party grew the American revolution and the thought that tea drinking in the US was unpatriotic.