[sixties-l] Protests: Then And Now

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Thu Aug 10 2000 - 05:21:28 CUT

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    Then And Now
    By Ted Glick


    Future Hope column #13, August 1, 2000

    It was hot as I walked back and forth on the Ben Franklin Parkway in the
    heat and humidity in Philadelphia on July 30th, at the Unity 2000
    demonstration on the day before the opening of the Republican Convention.
    As I walked, between the stage where people were speaking and the
    block-long street fair with tables, food, street theatre, floats, drumming
    and more, I began to think of the differences between the new pro-justice
    movement of today as compared to the peace and justice movement of the late
    One difference is the widespread acceptance of a multi-tactical approach.
    In the '60s there were often serious political arguments between those who
    wanted to organize non-violent civil disobedience and those who believed
    that large, legal, peaceful protests were THE tactic. Today, there is a
    much more widespread understanding that these two approaches can be
    It's similar in regards to electoral activity. There is much less
    opposition to involvement with elections than was true 30 years ago, in
    large part because of the Nader/LaDuke campaign and other progressive third
    party activity. Indeed, at the demonstrations over the first three days of
    the Philadelphia actions, July 29, 30 and 31, there were many people
    wearing buttons and carrying signs in support of Nader and LaDuke, in
    Another difference a more widespread use of humor. One of the most creative
    and popular contingents at the July 30th march was Billionaires for Bush
    (or Gore). Dressed in suits, ties and evening gowns, they chanted slogans
    like, "Who needs day care, hire an au pair," "Big money united shall never
    be defeated," and "Make a smart investment, buy yourself a President." And
    this is but one example of the use of humor in a more extensive way by the
    new pro-justice movement.
    It is also significant that this is a movement with many leaders.
    In the late '60s, there were particular individuals who were seen as the
    peace movement's leaders-Dave Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, Abbie
    Hoffman and Jerry Rubin being among the most prominent. Major national
    demonstrations didn't happen unless at least one or two of these or other
    well-known individuals were major, on-the-scenes organizers.
    The actions that have taken place in Seattle, Washington, D.C. and
    Philadelphia, on the other hand, involved a wider range of leadership, a
    greater mix of individuals playing leadership roles, and a much more
    collective organizational process. Njoki Njehu, the MC of the April 16th
    demonstration in D.C., has commented on how, "in the months and weeks
    leading up to the mobilization in Washington, for the first time that I've
    seen at a larger level, we worked by consensus. We had a collective method
    of work involving literally hundreds of people in Washington organizing
    meetings and working groups, making decisions and respecting them,
    empowering people. We were creating the kind of world that we want."
    This, perhaps, is the most significant of all the differences. There is a
    widespread appreciation of the necessity of a fully democratic and
    respectful political process as we organize our actions. We can't say that
    we are against an undemocratic and oppressive political and economic system
    and then function within our own meetings and events in a top-down,
    hierarchical way.
    But it goes even deeper than this.
    Possibly the most amazing experience at a political meeting that I have
    ever had took place in Washington in April. It was the night of the 16th,
    following a morning and afternoon of blockading, marching and
    demonstrating, and in the sweltering basement of a local church five or six
    hundred people were trying to figure out what to do the next morning. It
    was too much for one young man, and he pretty much "lost it" as he tried to
    make his contribution to the long, difficult process of coming to a
    decision. He began attacking the chair of the meeting and airing his
    frustrations in a very antagonistic way.
    All of a sudden, as if on cue, the entire room was filled with 15 to 20
    seconds of a long "ooooommmmmm." I looked around, trying to grasp what was
    taking place. Then, as the frustrated young man grew silent and sat down,
    and as the "oomms" died away, the chair of the meeting smoothly
    transitioned back to the issues at hand.
    Back "in my day," there would have been a very different reaction. There
    would have been calls for the speaker to shut up. At least one person,
    almost certainly another man, would have taken offense and indignantly
    responded to one of the points that was made. Or someone would have taken
    advantage of the momentary disruption to try to push a particular point or
    alter the agenda.
    This time, however, the desire on the part of the group as a whole to stay
    centered and focused and the use of a spiritual tactic in a political
    meeting by large numbers of young people led to a very different outcome.
    As our movement grows and develops, as we address our continuing weaknesses
    and become increasingly stronger, we will be faced with many roadblocks by
    our corporate/government enemies. But if those of who are older can learn
    from the maturity and dedication that many of our younger leaders are
    demonstrating, we stand a fighting chance to accomplish our objective of
    bringing into being a truly just and peaceful country and world.

    Ted Glick is the National Coordinator of the Independent Progressive
    Politics Network. His first book, Future Hope: A Winning Strategy for a
    Just Society, has just been published. He can be reached at P.O. Box 1132,
    Bloomfield, N.J. 07003, or futurehopeTG@aol.com.

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