Podcast of the Week: “Do Protests Still Matter?” from To The Best of Our Knowledge


This week’s To the Best of Our Knowledge asks Do Protests Still Matter.  I grew up inspired by the history of mass movements to use protest for Civil Rights, women’s equality, labor rights, and anti-war to  bring about great change.  In the 80s and 90s, I visited Washington, DC often and every time would see a protest of dozens, hundreds, sometimes thousands of people marching from some cause.  It seemed that protests were so routine that they no longer received media coverage and certainly did not seem to be influencing elected representatives in the government.  In 2007, as part of the ALA Conference in Washington, I went to the US Capitol and visited the offices of my representative and senators to advocate for libraries.  I noticed that there were other groups working for other causes wearing matching t-shirts and carrying their own petitions.  I never met any elected representatives, just their administrative assistants who politely asked me to drop my petition in an inbox.  Again, I really wondered if protest was so commonplace as to have any affect at all.

In recent years, first with Occupy Wall Street and then Black Lives Matters, I’ve been inspired by mass movements innovating to get attention to their causes through long-term encampments, blocking streets, and other more “in-your-face” tactics.  They seem to have helped stir conversation about inequality in our nation, but they’ve also met with police repression and a widespread commendation of “extremism” in tactics that ignores the severity of the problems they’re trying to address.  It makes me worry about how in the future the people’s voices if protest is no longer an effective means of expression and resistance.  I remain optimistic though, and if you read this blog you know I’ve participated in demonstrations and rallies for Boston Public Schools and plan to remain active in the future.

What do you think?  Do protests still matter?  In what ways can people express their voices and opinions to make change for the better?

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