Welcome login | signup
Language en es fr

Forum Post: Protests That Worked

Posted 12 years ago on Nov. 18, 2011, 5:29 p.m. EST by mtmama (34)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

By Michael Lind

November 16, 2011

MPI/Getty Images Bonus Army members camped in Washington in 1932, to protest the unemployment created by the Great Depression. On July 28, 1932, at the command of President Herbert Hoover, police and soldiers led by Gen. Douglas MacArthur attacked and destroyed the camp of the Bonus Army, a group of thousands of World War I veterans and their families and allies who had spent the spring and summer protesting the unemployment created by the Great Depression. The violence, in which two veterans were killed and dozens of people were injured, shocked the American public and helped to ensure the victory of Franklin D. Roosevelt over Hoover in that fall’s presidential election.

Politicians and voters might be more swayed by a powerful one-time demonstration, like Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 march. Will the raids by city officials in New York and across the country on the encampments of Occupy protesters create a popular backlash, as did the crushing of the Bonus Army? Another possibility is that the Occupy movement will suffer the fate of the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968.

Following the success of the civil rights movement in bringing about a legislated end to formal racial segregation, Martin Luther King Jr. sought to tackle problems of poverty and inequality that transcended race. Following his assassination in April 1968, the Poor People’s Campaign, which he founded, marched on Washington in May — and stayed. The protestors created a tent city on the Mall, complete with its own City Hall, and named it Resurrection City.

Resurrection City was a debacle. The tent city turned the Mall into a muddy morass. The movement’s goal of economic justice was complex and could be accomplished only over generations. Antiwar protesters and adherents of other causes further blurred the already vague message. The dismantling of the camp in June 1968 was anticlimactic. In August, the campaign moved to Chicago, where some of its members battled cops in what the government itself called “a police riot” during the Democratic National Convention. More Americans sided with the police than with the protesters, and a generation of political hegemony by the law-and-order right followed.

According to polls, most Americans initially sympathized with Occupy Wall Street. But a movement identified with the counterculture that creates shanty-towns in every city, including progressive cities like Portland, may end up alienating liberal as well as conservative members of the suburban middle-class majority. A better model for Occupy Wall Street than Resurrection City might have been Martin Luther King Jr.’s successful 1963 March on Washington, which followed the rules of successful oratory: Be brief, be bright, be gone.



Read the Rules
[-] 1 points by OccupyLink (529) 12 years ago

All of what you are saying here shows that the Occupy Protest Movement will win in the end. It is not just the tent cities - they are symbolic. It is also a massive internet and communications protest. It represents the 99%.

[-] 1 points by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT 12 years ago

What you say has merit, and deserves careful consideration. Yet I believe it must be kept in perspective.

In order for the Civil Rights movement to succeed it required sustained effort over time. We must do much more than a single, powerful one-time demonstration.

Be brief, be bright, be gone.

This sounds like an excellent guiding principle for a flashmob campaign. I have no doubt that we will need to agitate for the next five years, or more, to see practical results that our grandchildren may benefit from.

[-] 1 points by LetMeAdviseYou (1) 12 years ago

File a legal complaint at all of the major banks involved at the same day.