The Enduring Power of Protest
Are marches and demonstrations just feel good affairs? You vent some spleen then go home satisfied as if you’ve done something worthwhile and before you know it the glow wears off? Or does the power of collective action, solidarity and mass mobilizations have a deeper effect? The key to resistance is organization leading to sustained efforts. The danger of demonstrations is if they are not connected to movements. The former is episodic whereas movements are enduring. The historic 1963 March on Washington for civil rights and the subsequent anti-Vietnam War demonstrations had a major impact. Those protests attracted hundreds of thousands. Since the Trump inauguration in January 2017 there have been more protests than during any comparable period in U.S. history, literally millions have turned out. People are getting off of tweets and into the streets in larger and larger numbers.
Aneelah Afzali is the executive director of the American Muslim Empowerment Network at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound. She was named the 2018 American Muslim of the Year by the Council on American Islamic Relations.
L.A. Kauffman is a veteran organizer of mass marches and direct-action protests. Her articles appear in The Guardian and other publication. She is author of How to Read a Protest: The Art of Organizing and Resistance.