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Why protesting doesn’t work

Why protesting doesn’t work

The low rumble throughout the duration of the protest at the SNEC building came from those that disliked the way it appeared — this includes options on the tipi, which isn’t a piece of Haudenosaunee culture. But given that visitors from other communities would be within the village for the Grand River PowWow, the appearance

The low rumble throughout the duration of the protest at the SNEC building came from those that disliked the way it appeared — this includes options on the tipi, which isn’t a piece of Haudenosaunee culture.

But given that visitors from other communities would be within the village for the Grand River PowWow, the appearance of civil unrest around the Six Nations Elected Council building was a reflection upon the community as a whole.

To some it was a perfect opportunity to show the opposition with Band Council and to others, it was a showcase to those from outside of Six Nations as to how the community is divided and continues to be.

The reality of a protest however, is that they are and have been proven to be ineffective.

In fact, governmental responses usually amount to little more than rhetorical appeasement when met with the basic protest patterns of camping, protesting, fundraising, communicating with the media, and interacting with the authorities.

For example, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, publicly validated the frustrations of those who took to the streets of her country, and promised that changes would be made, but those ‘changes’ still have yet to materialize. The reaction of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan can be another as his reaction to the protests in his country was more aggressive. He accused the opposition and protesters of plotting a sophisticated conspiracy against him and tried to block Twitter and YouTube. The end result being conclusive for almost all protest rallies; massive marches come with scant results.

But how can so many extremely motivated people achieve so little?

Taking a look at the results of an experiment conducted by Anders Colding-Jørgensen of the University of Copenhagen in 2009 might yield some understanding. Colding-Jørgensen created a Facebook group to protest the demolition of the historic Stork Fountain in a major square of the Danish capital. Ten thousand people joined in the first week and after two weeks, the group was 27,000 members-strong. That was the extent of the experiment. There was never a plan to demolish the fountain—Colding-Jørgensen simply wanted to show how easy it was to create a relatively large group using social media.

Before the Internet, the tedious work of organizing that was required to organize a protest also helped build infrastructure for decision making and strategies for sustaining momentum as a movement. Now movements can rush past that step, often to their own detriment thanks to social media.

In today’s world, an appeal to protest through social media can easily bring a crowd, especially if it is to demonstrate against something that causes outrage. The problem is that what happens after the initial standing is it ends in a violent confrontation with the police, and more often than not, it fizzles out just like the SNEC protest has.

As well, behind massive street demonstrations there is rarely a well-oiled organization capable of following up on protesters’ demands and undertaking the complex, face-to-face, and dull political work that produces real change in government.

As written by Leslie Ohara, “you can’t rework entrenched systems by holding up picket signs. Protest chants do not fix major social and economic issues. You can’t fight injustice by begging the unjust elites to change their ways.

At most, a protest can raise awareness about the issue you are concerned about. But even that increased awareness is extremely vulnerable to the twist and spin of the people doing the reporting,” which is true no matter how it’s sliced.

So what does work if not protests?

What is effective, particularly in the case of the SNEC protest, is creating a basis to sway the peoples vote before it’s even cast.

There is a powerful political movement engine that runs in the streets of Six Nations, but the engine is not connected to wheels, and so the engine doesn’t move. Achieving that motion requires protesters to be capable of old-fashioned political work that our ancestors already understood which can leverage street demonstrations into political change and policy reforms.

In most cases, that means working with political entities. Many of the most successful protests had backing by political entities already, but within sovereign nations, having the backing of the people can be viewed as having the backing of a political entity.

Using the American Civil Rights movement as an example, it was seen as more prudent to legislate racial equality than to risk the major social upheaval that seemed imminent if the state did not. The state did not have a change of heart, it did not reflect upon its moral standing, ad it did not do what it did for the benefit of the individuals it had been oppressing. The state acted in its own best interest by changing its attitude toward black Americans and mandating equal treatment of all citizens, regardless of race. If that threat of long-term unrest had not been present, the state might well have made a different decision.

So, long-term unrest must also be present to create change.

And if the meetings that were held surrounding the future plans of SNEC, rather than empty — which they were — those that oppose could speak and possibly persuade those that are for certain projects to change their minds. Thus swaying the vote and creating a sense of urgency to prevent social upheaval.

It would also prompt SNEC to host more meetings in the future, rather than feeling that they are a waste of time, which they are not.

In other words, everything that the protesters at the SNEC building were protesting against, could have been prevented by taking the time to speak at the meetings and taking proper measures ahead of time. Not after the votes have been cast, papers have beens signed and things are put into motion.

Plus, the public meetings discussing the situations that have caused disagreements amongst the people were held months ago.

But that’s where the question of whether or not some people simply want something to fight against comes from, and that in itself is called chaos theory, whereby people gravitate towards wanting to fight without ever seeking a resolution.

Again, protesting almost always reaps very few results and the proof is in the pudding.

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