Protests need to have focus, challenge status quo
In order to have effective protests, organizers need to have a clear purpose while also challenging the status quo.
Americans are quite familiar with protests. From police brutality to worker mistreatment, there are plenty of causes people protest against this country. Many people may think that simply having people march with signs is all you need for a protest, but that’s not true if you want it to be effective.
One of the most important things for a protest to have is a clear purpose. This is essential for the protest within and for its optics. Black Lives Matter protests are typically very focused with the goal of stopping police brutality.
The recent protests in Texas against the new abortion law have also been very focused. These protests all advocate for the law to be repealed so people can continue to have abortions after six weeks into pregnancy.
These are examples of focused protests where the message was delivered to the general public.
However, there are plenty of unfocused protests. The Women’s March is an organization that has been organizing protests since 2017, which was in reaction to Trump winning the 2016 Presidential Election. For the most part, it seemed to have to do with women’s rights with many signs having statements vaguely about female empowerment.
Being anti-Trump wasn’t clear enough as Trump’s flaws covered more than just gender discrimination and the march suffered criticisms about its lack of focus.
It’s fine to protest against the vague idea of sexism as long as there is a focused goal. To protest sexism, you can focus on attaining the Equal Rights Amendment.
Another thing most protests need is to challenge the status quo or perform civil disobedience.
The Birmingham Campaign of 1963 is a good example of civil disobedience. Black protestors did sit-ins in white diners and white churches while Black students marched in the streets of the extremely segregated city.
To say the Birmingham participants were challenging the status quo is an understatement but they were certainly threatening the racist power structure. This is partly what made the protests so effective. It sent a message that the protesters wouldn’t abide by the racist Jim Crow laws.
Recently there was a campus protest put on by Socialist Alternative, where students protested the new abortion law. There was a little bit of disobedience with students walking out of class for this protest.
Later that day the Student Government Association held a protest with a lot fewer people and no civil disobedience. It involved only 30 or so people giving their opinion on why they thought the abortion bill was bad while holding signs.
This wasn’t as much of a protest as it was a town hall. While the protest had a clear purpose about the abortion law, up against the Socialist Alternative protest with civil disobedience made it weaker in comparison.
Protests are necessary for change to happen in this country. America has a long tradition of protests against immoral legislation and actions. However, simply having a megaphone and holding cleverly worded signs is not enough. Protests need to be focused and should also challenge the status quo.
Anna Baker is an English senior who can be reached at [email protected]