To the Editor:
The problem with one-off protests is that they have never changed any legal or corporate policy. In February 2003, for example, millions in the U.S. protested the invasion of Iraq. Although it received mainstream headlines, it did nothing to alter the Bush administration’s policy. As George Lakey (2018) states, “Bush had a plan to persist. We did not.”
Since Trump was elected, people have been marching and protesting nearly every week. While the Resistance did gain an impressive shift in power in the U.S. House as well as many governorships and state offices, progressive voices are still a minority. There is no reason to believe that Democrats will give us the socio-political equity, economic justice, environmental sustainability, universal health care, and affordable childcare, housing, and education we all need and demand.
Robert Kennedy, champion of civil rights, warned the Congress of Racial Equality to exercise restraint during the Freedom Rides. He didn’t warn the Whites who beat them, burned their buses, chained, dragged, and killed them. He warned the Freedom Riders. Because they refused to stop protesting, Kennedy finally issued policies to desegregate public transportation and lunch counters. Additionally, FDR didn’t act out of moral righteousness. He passed the New Deal policies only to appease massive labor strikes.
To effect real and lasting change, we must do more than one-off protests and political lobbying. History teaches us that to pass significant policy changes, people need a direct-action campaign: a long-term series of strategically planned, nonviolent actions, employing hundreds of creative methods that escalate in their ability to provoke and disrupt power-holders until they have little choice but to listen to the demands of the people. Our plan must be fulsome and clear. No one will follow us unless we articulate where we’re going and how we plant to get there.