The War on Protesting

According to The New York Times, 16 states have recently filed bills to toughen laws and punishments against protesters. There are already laws on the books that prohibit things such as vandalism, so tell me, what purpose does it serve to add more anti-protest legislation? Could it possibly be that our conservative majority wishes to further declaw its opposition, to silence us through intimidation and the threat of repercussion? I don’t see their supposedly zealous constituents organizing and gathering in large numbers, so I’m going to go with yes.

When the Civil Rights movement is taught in school the raw fight is often only generally alluded to. The focus is on the martyr Martin Luther King Jr. became, not the “dangerous negro” he was at the time. We watch videos of black people getting sprayed with fire hoses and attacked by dogs, the ultimate victims of racially charged hatred. But the people in the movement were not just victims who got the sympathetic white people to change their laws via their own peaceful and passive nature. There was absolutely nothing passive about the Civil Rights movement. They marched en mass. They blocked traffic. They were peaceful but they were disruptive.

Today the narrative is the same as it ever was. When I saw the film “I Am Not Your Negro”, a documentary about James Baldwin’s attempt to tie together the lives and deaths of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr., one of the most poignant moments for me was a clip from the Dick Cavette Show. An older white man explained to Baldwin that there was not in reality this divide between the races, that by discussing race as the source of trouble for black people it up it propped up the myth and continued the cycle of victimization. To me it was shocking that 60 years ago the same lines were being used to try and hush up the disenfranchised as they are today. Here is Baldwin’s eloquent response that is sadly every bit as relevant today. 

Go see this movie. Go see this movie. Did I mention, go see this movie? Go see this movie.

We need to remember that we have incredible power in numbers. Some how we have been hoodwinked into thinking our individualism is not only more important than the whole of society but also that we as individuals are as strong as the collective. We see this reflected in the death of unions. Unions are the epitome of the collective that fights for the good of the whole as opposed to the individual. Now workers are convinced that knowledge of fellow employee’s pay and benefits is taboo and thus they have know way to truly negotiate fairly. The corporation will always have the upper hand against the individual. It is no coincidence that the strongest unions in the United States are those composed of educators and scholars, people who have perspective to see the scope of history and understand the unions necessary existence in a democratic society.

We must gather and we must disrupt. We should not forget our anger and our rage. Right now those who believe in the ideologies of feminism and the Black Lives Matter movement may feel isolated, especially in the deep south where I live. It is through coming together that not only will we find companionship but we can help others come out of the shadows who may be scared to use their voice at the moment.

The crack down has already begun. When Black Lives Matter protested in Baton Rouge after the murder of Alton Sterling, police showed up in riot gear. They used an amount of force that was not required against a group of people who wished to peacefully have their message heard. They came ready for battle and when one did not present itself they made one. When you militarize the police force you turn them against the very citizens they are sworn to protect.

In the next four to eight years, if we continue our momentum, we are going to see protests like we have not seen since the 1960’s, and that is bittersweet. One one hand, there has been plenty to voice our concern over since then but we have been mostly silent. It has taken a political and social catastrophe to motivate us into action (I am the first to admit that I am completely guilty of this). On the other, we are coming together, passionate and stronger than ever, ready to fight this fascist regime in a way I could never have imagine.

Let’s keep this ball rolling. Let’s rebuke every petty law they throw at us. They will not have the satisfaction of hushing us. We are the majority, not them, and we can not let them forget that fact.

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