Love in the Time of Kool-Aid: Is Taking to the Streets Obsolete?
Olivia Olivia, The Portland Mercury, March 8, 2017
[Editor’s note: As Portland and cities around the country celebrate International Women’s Day with protest this year, Portland’s caught in a fight over how exactly its own protests should be carried out. That push-and-pull is not just between protesters and police. It’s a debate between demonstrators and citizens exhausted by traffic snarls, and a difference of opinion between people who see marching as vital to maintaining democracy and those who believe it accomplishes nothing. With this in mind, we’re running this essay by local writer Olivia Olivia.]
PORTLAND AND THE NATION are caught in crisis.
We are, as many have noted, in a time of openly fascist leadership and white supremacist ideology. So naturally, many of us think back to images of our civil rights heroes, and we march.
But what does that mean against the powers that be, and are we using outdated means to counteract an evolved enemy?
The powerful history of the march speaks for itself. When America depended on the silence and shame of African Americans in order to brutalize them, the idea of a nonviolent protest evolved as a way to expose the truth. People with cameras showed up, filming hours of damning footage of police attacking unarmed people. It had a strong effect, but white supremacy has changed.
The media—then and now—has a narrative about marches: that they are inconvenient, that they are violent, that they destroy public property and create delays for “hardworking people,” a group that the protesters surely are not an acknowledged part of. While the rest of us work, Trump tells us, these young “agitators” and “paid protestors” take to the streets, meaninglessly destroying things.
In response, the left is stuck trying to defend itself (“No, this is a peaceful protest, not a violent one!”) and fails to call out an inherent flaw in this propaganda: Material objects will be replaced by businesses our politicians have their hands in, but Black children murdered by police do not have that recourse. Nor do immigrants or any other human beings.