Tuesday, April 23, 2024


Protests Spread


Columbia University decided it was going to crack down on protests against Israel's continuing war in Gaza. The University President even testified in Congress that harsher action should be taken. The police were called in to arrest students en masse, and many of those students were suspended from school.

I suppose the plan was to stop the protesting. That didn't work! The protests at Columbia intensified, and others expanded at Boston University, MIT, NYU, UNC, Yale, and elsewhere. 

As much as anything, the Columbia President's actions signaled to young people where they could find something the yearn for: meaning. And they have flocked to it. 

Certainly, there is a debate to be had (and it IS being had) about whether these protests are good or bad. But that misses the point-- either way, they allow significance to the voices of people who want to have a significant voice. They will keep coming.

Student protesters sometimes go on to do great things (while others don't):

Seems to me that the protests that have meaning and are more successful in the long run are the protests that identify specific goals. The more generalized protests are less successful.

Another feature of successful protests -- nonviolence on the part of the Protesters, leading to general public sympathy/appreciation. If "the state" in the form of the police are violent, that will generally not help the object of the protest. See, Civil rights, esp. Selma

I am sure that there are exceptions, but lets consider a few examples.

-Stop the War in Vietnam. The protests went on for many years, but they didn't stop and the goal was clear: Stop the War. The Vietnam war protesters suffered setbacks when they blew things up or attempted to interfere with commerce/traffic. the 1971 "MayDay" protests here in Washington probably did NOT help their cause at all, for instance, despite the conclusion of this article: https://library.georgetown.edu/exhibition/most-influential-protest-you%E2%80%99ve-never-heard-may-day-1971

Nixon was reelected in 1972.

In the end, public opinion changed, and the U.S. pulled out.
- Divest from South Africa (with a goal of ending apartheid). Again, it took awhile, but it worked on both levels. U.S. companies divested and Congress pulled support. Even a young Mitch McConnell was on board: https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-mitch-mcconnell-defied-ronald-reagan-on-apartheid

-Labor Protests in the 30's. Again, clear goals. Violence on both sides, but by far, more on the management side.

Less successful protests:

-Occupy Wall Street..... to do...what... ? Sure financiers are over compensated egotistic selfish jerks, but what was the Specific goal?

-Various movements to end homelessness.... not specific enough

So where does the pro-Palestine movement fit? Not sure, but right now the aims/intent looks too diffuse. "End the genocide,""divest from Israel," "end U.S. support." Still not specific. No real violence .... yet.

So, we shall see.

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