|Protest march at the 2016 Republican National Convention|
Good question. Space is limited, so let’s get to it.
1). Protests provoke the wrong being protested, flushing it into the light. Civil rights demonstrations worked because Southern sheriffs broke out the dogs and firehoses and showed America exactly what these marchers were talking about. Had they broken out trays of pralines instead, we might still have segregated lunch counters. Protests against police brutality wouldn’t be half as dramatic if some police didn’t, on cue, start being brutal, on camera, blasting peaceful protesters with tear gas. Not many — most showed admirable professionalism and restraint. But it only takes a little spit to spoil the soup.
2). Protests benefit the protesters themselves. Not content to sit at home watching Netflix after — oh, for instance — a police officer is captured on video slowly strangling a black man who may have passed a bogus $20 bill, they leap up, make signs, pour into the street, march, raise their voices. They’re doing something. True, the problem being protested is never fixed by the end of the day. But it isn’t as if they didn’t try. So points for trying; it’s more than most do.
3). Protests are informational. The “If the czar only knew” aspect. At the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago, young people covered themselves in chocolate syrup and lay in the street to draw attention to the oil sands situation in Canada. I had never heard of the oil sands situation in Canada before, nor thought of it since. But they did raise the issue.
Is that happening now? Are there really people watching TV, thinking, “What’s this about? Police brutality? Tell me more.” Probably. Never underestimate the vast ignorance of the American people; doing that is like assuming you can wade across the Atlantic Ocean.
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