Political protest as an “adults only” activity

9 Mar

To all the parents out there? How can protests and movements better cater to you? What would you like to see at rallies, meetings, marches, etc.?”

That was a question asked today on the Facebook page of Occupy Boston. “Kids corner…lots of juice, diapers, non-MSG and non-sugar snacks” was among the typical responses. I disagree and don’t think the presence of children is appropriate at a real protest.

The purpose of a protest isn’t recreation, or socializing, or fresh air and exercise, or spending quality time with children, or making us feel a false sense of “having made a difference.” These needs can be better filled by other activities.

The purpose of a protest should be to create a shock that demands a response. Political will isn’t created until people without power do something that makes people with power break a sweat and say “oh damn, either we react or this will get worse for us.” Shock and response is the pattern of history.

Are you sad now because I said you shouldn’t take your kids to protest? Don’t be. You can still attend pseudo-protests like the “Forward on Climate” rally held on February. They called it a protest, but it was nothing but a polite, permitted march through the deserted streets of DC on a freezing Sunday afternoon. Vis-à-vis the false sense of accomplishment it created, it was literally worse than if people stayed home.

If you want take your kids to a parade disguised as a protest, be my guest. They’ll be plenty of them in 2013, organized by well-scrubbed, college-educated folk with plenty to lose. Tear away the social and recreational aspect of one of these farces and there’s almost nothing left. They are fun, however, for those who think you can make an omelet without breaking any eggs.

How do you know if you’re at a real protest or not? Ask yourself if civil disobedience is involved, and if it feels like someone might be pepper sprayed by the police. If the answer is “no” to both of these questions, then I hope you and the kids enjoy playing your theater roles. If the answer is “yes,” then congratulations. You’re probably at a real protest. Now get your kids the hell out of there as fast as possible.

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One Response to “Political protest as an “adults only” activity”

  1. DJ Si Si 99 March 15, 2013 at 10:59 am #

    Parents who bring their kids to protests need to bring their own supplies to care for the kids while there – period. But to say parents shouldn’t bring their child to attend a protest is the same as saying parents should not teach their children about civil disobedience, the importance of speaking and acting against injustice, and that children should be denied the opportunity to see their parents lead by example. The more parents with children are in attendance at protests, the more likey the establishment will begin to view us as people, as a community, rather than as a mindless, potentially violent mob. Protesters do behave more peacefully when children are present, as they become part of the community, they are cared for and protected by the community. Cops are also more likely to refuse to use their weapons when children are present. It’s one thing for a cop to pepper spray a group of adults. It’s another thing entirely for a cop to pepper spray a crowd of people interspersed with children. The role of police is to “protect and serve” and nothing would serve to dispel the myth that they do so than a viral photo/video of cops pepper spraying children. We all saw the public outcry when a group of UC Davis students were peppersprayed. Of course none of us would ever want to see a child peppersprayed, but parents should not be bullied into staying home and not participating for fear there’s a chance the bully cops aren’t able to conduct themselves in as peaceful a manner as the protesters. The cops know that if they don’t behave themselves in the presence of our children, they will be the next Lt. John Pike and any support they had from the public for “needing to control the crowd” will be completely discredited. Bottom line, the presense of kids keeps cops in check… and that’s exactly where we want them!

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