After the Supreme Court's McCutcheon decision, I got word there would be a protest in downtown, Philadelphia, across from where Occupy Philly had been.
I took a train down and encountered about 60-70 people mostly carrying mass-produced signs. It got me thinking that mass protests MUST change to become more effective. Most are still based on a top-down way of thinking.
The second one expressed a conclusion that I believe the SCOTUS decision made even more screamingly obvious.
After a few minutes, one of the protesters set up a portable sound amplification system.
A person from a local rootstrikers groups spoke, then a member of City Council-- Stephanie Singer, who I got to know when we worked on a progressive campaign seven years ago together, and then a member of the PA state senate. He was introduced as one of the good guys, but he was going on and on, and when he said that the most important thing we should do is WME-- Win More Elections, I couldn't stop myself from saying, "Bullshit."
The protest had started at 5:00 PM-- prime time for people being on the street. The talks started about 5:20 and when the politician made his remark, pushing for more of the same insanity-- elections as the only answer-- I had to speak. I asked the moderator. He pointed to the guy who provided the PA sound system.
I asked him if I could speak and he asked what group I was with.
Yes, being with a group adds credibility.
I told him I was with Opednews. He smiled and enthusiastically said something very positive about Opednews and gave me the go-ahead to speak.
Finally, the politician stopped and the first thing I said was that elections are absolutely not the only thing we can do. I said to the protesters, "You've taken the action to come down to protest this traitorous action, and I explained why the SCOTUS five are traitors, opening up the floodgates to foreign money influencing elections, and then I told them to stop listening to the speakers.
"You came here to fight the decision. Listening to speakers top down. Look around you. Talk to all the people passing by. Let them know what's going on. That's the way to make change happen. With the McCutcheon decision there is less likelihood that electoral change will happen. We have to reach the people and make change in other ways."
I don't know if any listened to me. I kept my remarks very short and then I tried to walk my talk. It was very difficult. People ignored me, they walked around me. It's not easy to do. There were a few people handing out 8.5" by 5.5" info sheets. They were on the right track, but only two or three out of sixty or seventy.
But it was an epiphany for me. The old, top-down protest model is ineffective-- gathering a lot of people together and then having big name people or organizers speak to them. We need a new protest model, one that empowers and encourages ALL the people who are protesting to reach out to non-protesters. That means we can't be doing protests at delegated spots where government issues permission. We need to go to where the people are, on the busiest streets, in shopping centers, for example.
We need to face the reality that the electoral process itself is profoundly broken, especially at the bigger levels-- federal elections, governors, mayors. So we have to use other means to make change happen. It has been done. It can be done again.
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