What are we protesting against, again?

Chris Faraone reports on an afternoon of protests on City Hall Plaza:

If you have beef with harsh immigration policies, so-called Wall Street bailouts, or right wing goon supreme Antonin Scalia, then downtown Boston was your liberal Disneyland Wednesday afternoon. From the 4pm Massachusetts Jobs with Justice rally against the bailout plan to the 5pm Moral Voices for Immigration Reform event, there was nary a left wing cause that went unrepresented.

I initially showed for the Jobs with Justice melee – not because I'm hungry like daily news reporters for human faces to attach to the financial crisis, but because their press release mentioned the insultingly played out "Main Street" cliche five times. I respect peoples' right to protest measures that they perceive to burden working people with corporate woes, but this sudden slogan-driven populism eerily reminds me of the reflexive blue state pacifism that followed 9/11. ...


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    Earlier yesterday on City Hall Plaza

    around noon, there was a Communist Chinese rally with red banners celebrating the "30th anniversary of reform and opening-up", or something like that. Anyone know what actually happened on 10/1/1978 in China?

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    Commies got a little more markety

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    Just like they say, 'reform and opening-up.' In late 1978 the Chinese leadership began moving the economy from a Soviet-style centrally planned economy to a more market-oriented system. The commies got a little more markety. That's why they're making all our poisoned candy and dog food now.

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    March Against Addenda!

    I remember going to a few well-organized events like the March for Women's Rights in DC, or the first big anti-Iraq war rally in NYC and seeing all of these fringe groups adding in their agenda underneath. Sometimes quite literally in crayon!

    I've seen some pretty incoherent signs to that effect, and pretty pathetic hilarious ones too.

    Then you get to go to the websites where these same groups will complain that it was really a "march against everything" or should have been a "march against all imperialist capitalist oppression" because that includes the focussed theme and that the organizers "marginalized" their cause by not explicitly including their laundry list of issues and targets - issues that had little or nothing to do with the larger theme of the march.

    I seem to remember a group at MIT that had this same sort of hobby where they would occasionally "march against all oppression" and walk around drumming and chanting and flailing their blond dreadlocks. Then they got upset when somebody put out a parody of their on-campus newspaper and supported free speech by gathering up some copies and putting them in the garbage. Tsk Tsk - they didn't even recycle!

    It all turns into predictable human theater after a while, with new young revolutionaries doing the same things that an earlier generation did, only with websites. At least the city hall demonstrations appear to have been scheduled and stratified.

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    This is a problem on the left side of things

    Some of these so-called "fringe groups" need a lesson in marketing and communication (provided their cause makes sense to begin with). By acting like parasites on marches and demonstrations that have nothing to do with their own agenda, they fail at getting their own messages across and are not taken seriously. But while failing at their own purpose, they ruin it for every group that puts in the hard work in getting their focused message out. They give the sane people on the left a bad name.

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    "fringe groups"

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    Who could take them seriously in any circumstance... those "fringe groups"? Belittle them and ignore the issue they care about. It surely can't be of any consequence.

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    I spent a few years doing

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    I spent a few years doing news photography at lots of demonstrations in the Boston area.

    The nice thing about demonstrations is that most people are out there because they *care*. We don't see enough civic engagement, and I appreciate it when I do.

    Only a minority of people at most demonstrations I saw gave the impression that they were crazy, displacing, or revolutionaries-til-graduation.

    I think Boston-area demonstrators have three big problems: (1) often preaching to the choir, and everyone knows it; (2) low turnout even when many people feel similarly; (3) often poor organization or understanding how to be effective.

    Sometimes, it was painful to avoid offering tips on effective protesting, but I was trying not to interfere with the news, and also there would be a question of impartiality if I was selective about who I advised.

    One of the biggest and most striking demonstrations was on the topic of gay marriage, in front of the State House. Romney and others giving speeches, large number of anti-gay-marriage protestors with identical signs on one side of street, large counter-demonstration of very diverse group on other side. The anti side was pretty homogeneous, with a few exceptions like the great shots I got of these very sour-looking nuns in full habit, and of a cheerful, charismatic black guy with a NASA cap. On the whole, the two sides had very distinct character, and each had a strong presence in its own way.

    (I actually had a shot from that event published in a poli sci textbook. A couple demonstrators from each side engaging each other in what looked like a rare attempt at dialogue, but with a humorous angle involving a police horse.)

    Harvard Square also had a few great demonstrations, inspired by visiting dignitaries to the Kennedy School of Government.

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    Unfortunately, though, Neil,

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    the fringe groups or crazies that do show up at demonostrations don't have to be in the majority to present a problem. Often enough, it takes only a minority to give demonstrations or demonstratotrs a bad name.

    Yes, you're right about a great many of the Boston-area demonstrations having problems. Not being well organized is an important one. I'm not a photographer, but I did go to afew during my younger days (early 1970's), and, more recently, some of the vigils down in Somerville's Davis Square, as well as a couple of anti-war demonstrations in the Common. Not well organized at all-somewhat chaotic.

    I remember seeing an unorganized demonstration in Harvard Square afew years ago, when people were sitting in the middle of the street. The traffic was backed up for quite a bit. It was a mess. This, folks, is where I really draw the line. it's stupid to block traffic, it ticks people off and alienates potential support for the cause at hand, plus it makes it much more difficult for emergency vehicles (i. e. police, ambulance, fire truck) to get through, causing unnecessary and dangerous delays.

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