Following are various thoughts about protest.
I have been very moved by the widespread and massive protests related to gun violence in general and school shootings specifically, including yesterday’s actions. I was especially saddened to see that even elementary school students felt the need to participate. Monteverde Friends School in Costa Rica observed 17 minutes of silence for the Parkland school victims yesterday, too.
Rachel Maddow made the important observation that engaging in direct action is usually transformative for the participants. I hope this will be the beginning of these youth continuing to engage in public policies, and widen to other areas such as climate change, racial injustice and economic inequality.
My first protest was transformative for me, and I think most of the other students at Scattergood Friends School, when we all walked from the School into Iowa City, about 12 miles away, to participate in the national Moratorium to Stop the Vietnam War, October 15, 1969. Nation-wide demonstrations against the Vietnam War hastened the end of our involvement there.
For protests to be effective there needs to be a well defined goal, a clear message, and strict discipline to adhere to the principles of nonviolence. Training in nonviolence is important. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) provided this training to hundreds during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Native Americans required training in nonviolent direct action of everyone who went to Standing Rock.
Student protests and civil rights remind me of the children’s march in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963, when more than 1000 children marched downtown to talk to the mayor about civil rights. Fire hoses and dogs were turned against them, and hundreds were arrested.
Dog attacks, sandbag projectiles and spraying water in freezing temperatures were among the tactics used against the water protectors at Standing Rock for months.
In 2013 the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) provided training in organizing and executing nonviolent direct action to about 400 people in 25 cities in the United States as part of the Keystone Pledge of Resistance. Those 400 people then offered a number of training sessions locally, eventually training over 4,000 people. The goal of that campaign was to pressure President Obama to deny the Keystone XL Pipeline permit.
One question that has been raised recently is why there was hardly any support of Black Lives Matter and others protesting police abuse and the killing of unarmed people of color. “Why was it so easy to support the Parkland youths while the youths in the Movement for Black Lives were repudiated and disregarded?” Why It Hurts When the World Loves Everyone but Us, Janaya Khan in The Root. We should have been more supportive then, and have a chance to do so now. I was peripherally involved with the Black Lives Matter group in Indianapolis but could have done more.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has a map showing more than 20 states have either passed or are considering legislation to criminalize peaceful protest, instigated by the fossil fuel industry.
Following is information from Ed Fallon about such a bill, SF 2235, that passed the Iowa Senate in February but has stalled in the House. Now some Senators who supported it are having second thoughts.
1. Iowans don’t want this bill — 74% of all Iowans polled in 2015 opposed using eminent domain to build the Dakota Access Pipeline!
2. ETP wants this bill because landowners suing over the abuse of eminent domain have a strong case. Most Iowans agree that the Dakota Access Pipeline isn’t “critical infrastructure.” It’s not at all in the same category as lines carrying water, electricity and gas. We access these services directly and, when they fail, we notice immediately.
3. If ETP gets this bill passed and Iowa landowners lose their lawsuit, it throws open the doors to eminent domain in the future — not just for oil pipelines but for all kinds of private development.
4. The bill would potentially impose extreme penalties for non-violent protest protected under the First Amendment.