Smart Protests and Silly Protests

Yesterday Hartford, CT decided to get in on the Moral Monday phenomena.  A group of protesters blocked the Hartford side of the Founder’s Bridge just before rush hour.  Their stated goal was to spread the “black lives matter” message.  This wasn’t a smart way to spread that message.

Like anything else, protests can be done well or badly.  There are a few things that are necessary to protest effectively.  First, it has to get people’s attention.  The Hartford protestors did that.  Second, it needs to be clear why they are protesting.  The Hartford protesters failed this one.  Third, the protesters need to generate sympathy.  The Hartford protesters failed this one spectacularly.

When you think of the classic protests, they all have these features.  With the lunch counter sit-ins and the Montgomery bus boycott, they were national news, they were clearly protesting the unequal treatment of blacks, and they generated lots of sympathy.  The Tiananmen Square protests were international news, they were clearly protesting the hardline communists’ success against liberal reformers, and they definitely generated lots of sympathy.  Gandhi inspired millions, he was clearly protesting British imperialism (among other things like the caste system), and he generated tons of sympathy.

The Hartford protest on Monday did get people’s attention.  Although, it only got people’s attention because it disrupted the evening commute.  It was unclear why they were protesting.  If they hadn’t told us, we wouldn’t know.  There’s no significance to the Founder’s Bridge or the date or anything else.  When Moral Monday started in North Carolina, they marched on the state house to protest the passage of unfair laws.  That is clear.  Hartford was confused.  And they didn’t generate any sympathy.  When protesters in Ferguson came out, we all felt for them.  They were suffering and the police really overreacted.  In Hartford, they made people angry by messing up rush hour.  Not one person sitting in traffic said to themselves, “You know what?  Black lives really do matter.”  They just cursed the people who made them late.

There are tons of injustices happening all the time.  I’m glad there are people willing to protest these injustices.  I just wish those people would be smart about it.

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