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Political Protest Open Thread (Share the Outrage)

As you may have noticed, over on the right-hand side of this page Irregular Times maintains a list of upcoming political protest events. Although we occasionally despair at the uphill odds faced by popular protests to overcome the organized machinations of wealth and power, we believe strongly in the right and responsibility of dissent. When people get together to cry “enough!” and we agree with their cries, we’re glad to spread the word.

Sometimes finding out about political protests in advance can be a challenge. After all, people who protest rather than lobby or bribe tend to be dispossessed, resource-poor and outside the dinner party circles of the influential journalists who write about how hard it is to be on top. Social movements come and go, and as they do there are changes in groups and networks through which protest news is shared. While Protest.Net and CodePink4Peace had massively active protest calendars a decade ago, they’re largely empty today. IndyMedia is still active in some areas but is spotty in others — indymedia.us, for instance, hasn’t had a new story for 15 months and still lists 2012 RNC and DNC protests as “upcoming.”

The following are some upcoming protests we’re highlighting…

… but we’d like to share more information than this. We know there are more protests being organized out there, because week after week we stumble across reports of protests after they’ve happened. It’s good that those reports exist, but wouldn’t it be better if people knew about protests before the fact? Help us bring more people to protests, help make those protests matter, help spread the word. Where do you go to find out about rallies and demonstrations on the issues you care about, either where you live or nationally? What are the major, moderate and minor movements we’re missing? Post a comment to this thread to help get the word out and to help us learn how to get the word out better.

3 comments to Political Protest Open Thread (Share the Outrage)

  • Bill

    Here in North Carolina, the NAACP, working with many local churches and various rag-tag motley progressives, holds very large, very peaceful, and frequently arrested Moral Monday protests outside the General Assembly building in Raleigh whenever the legislature is in session. As the Koch brothers, Bank of America, the Tealiban, Governor McCrory and his puppetmaster, Duke Energy, attempt to reverse all that makes this one of the South’s most progressive and productive states and to disenfranchise the poor and powerless, we seek to shame and remind them that the electorate grows more purple every year, and we on the blue side are paying attention, raising a ruckus, and not taking Deconstruction lying down (except, perhaps, in public thoroughfares).

    The next Moral Monday is May 19 at 5 PM, outside the General Assembly at 16 W. Jones St., Raleigh NC. There’s a better than even chance that I might be one of the grey-haired old farts getting arrested for unseemly uppitiness. Learn more at http://www.naacpnc.org/1st_moral_monday.

    • Jim Cook

      Bill,

      Thanks for the word!

      To get “meta” about this, how would a person have found out about this activist cause, and how could they use that approach to find others of interest?

      Jim

  • Bill

    Your question is a good one. Just looking at the Moral Monday web page I find no general keywords that would reliably turn it up in a focused search. And playing with Google to attempt to construct a general purpose search for rallies, protests, demonstrations, boycotts, marches, etc., the results are uniformly useless, almost all after-the-fact stuff, and mostly foreign (a protest last week in Istanbul, etc.). And those few quality hits that do turn up are mostly teapublican (there’s a conclusion to be drawn here, I think).

    So, if one accepts the premise that progressives’ promotion of actions pretty much sucks (which I take here as a given), the question becomes what can innovative use of social media do to help?

    One possible and obvious answer would be to create a service that provides exposure for upcoming progressive actions. A one-stop-shop where organizers can simply and easily register upcoming activities. At a high level, such an effort would require:

    1. A Reason for people to reliably submit their items. That’s simple enough: provide benefits. For example, enable reporters and freelancers to sign up for automated notifications of upcoming events in their geographic or subject matter areas of interest…thus promoting press coverage. Provide collaboration tools for coordinating support functions (such as transportation, food and water, bail, etc.). This gives people who might want to get involved, but who aren’t already plugged in, a way to take that first step painlessly. Nice Google maps showing the geographic distribution of past and future activities, searchable by subject matter or other descriptors — very helpful for researchers. Allow the use of Donate links. Enable prospective attendees to RSVP to the organizers. Provide (organizer-edited) comments threads. Enable organizers to provide after-action summaries. Etc. etc. etc.

    2. Manual Curation. Sad but true, somebody’s gotta lay an eyeball on each submission before it goes live, try to confirm its authenticity, and approve it, edit it, or reject it. That’s just the way the world is. Curation is an art and a science, so it seems to me there would be sufficient pedagogical value there to justify the involvement of educators.

    3. Start-Up Money. Not much, really. Web hosting services that provide PHP on the front end and copious MySQL databases on the back end are so cheap nowadays. The major start-up cost would involve the contract services of a web programmer or three to code the basic infrastructure. There oughta be a foundation out there that would be willing to kick in a five-figure grant to kickstart that. And, speaking of kickstarting….what about that?

    4. Sustaining Funding. Most good ideas die young because they don’t plan for sustainability. So make it easy for users to donate. Maybe require a token donation from submitters ($10?), which would go a long way toward weeding out bogus submissions, as well. Enable viewers to opt-in to a mailing list (the benefit to them being automated notification of upcoming actions in their geographic and/or subject matter areas of interest), with the clearly stated understanding that you intend to sell your mailing list to legitimate vetted organizations.

    5. Promotion. All of the above is fruitless if the tool doesn’t attract and engage eyeballs and submitters. Guerilla marketing is cheap and effective. Occasional diaries on DailyKos, regular links to the tool here at IT, a thoughtful article or two submitted to HuffPo, Slate, Salon, Politico, etc. Promotional emails to the regional leadership of organizations such as NAACP, unions, student organizations, political parties, LGBT groups, environmental organizations, candidates for office, etc. Ultimately, a scholarly article analyzing the growing and increasingly rich data set. The occasional plug for the site in news articles regarding specific events. The possibilities, as they say, are limited only by your imagination.

    6. A Steering Committee, and a Director. It would be easy for an effort such as this to devolve into chaos or, worse yet, to just fizzle out for lack of ‘ownership’ (a la OWS). Some degree of organization and lines of responsibility are Good Things, I believe. Maybe hold an annual Users Group conference to gain feedback and keep stakeholders engaged.

    The biggest question in my mind (aside from “are you actually serious enough about this to put the required effort into it?”) would be this: do you limit coverage to ‘progressive’ events (and if so, how do you decide what’s ‘progressive,’ and what ain’t? The possibilities for disagreement are endless, even among relatively like-minded people of goodwill), or do you open it to all comers, left, right, and pseudo-center alike (barring, of course, hate groups, those advocating violence, blacklisted abusers, etc.)? My inclination would be to go the latter route, as it brings a myriad of benefits: sidesteps the thorny issue of censorship, enables the organization to maintain a clear ‘social welfare’ mission for tax purposes, yields the richest possible data set for scholarly (and other) analysis, and promotes a level playing field where ideas can contend on their merits alone. With appropriate personalization features built into the tool, it could look exclusively ‘progressive’ to one user (if she so chooses), exclusively ‘conservative’ to another, or ‘centrist’ to a third. Why not? If one sincerely believes in the merits of one’s cause, one should be willing to duke it out on a level playing field.

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