Hello, Berners. I have a request. Could a set of alternate protests be arranged for the night before the convention in a variety of major US cities such as Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco? It's a bit inconvenient for us west coasters to make it to Philly, for example. Enough DNC participants would watch the news in the hotel the night before for the protests to have an effect. This effect would be diminished if the protests happened during the convention instead of the night before, since the delegates and speakers would not be watching the news then.
This would improve the effectiveness of the protests in Philly the following day, possibly convince more people nearby to show up, and help prevent any unplanned protests in those cities.
Edit: I'm not yet convinced that protesting would be the best course of action, but given that it is on people's minds, we should have a plan and understand what sorts of actions are likely to have the kinds of results we would want. In that spirit, here's
What everyone needs to know about nonviolent protest:
Nonviolent protest is not simply a protest in which protesters don't physically aggress. That is,
lack of violence is necessary, but not sufficient, for "nonviolent protest."
must be provocative.
If nobody cares, nobody will respond. Gandhi didn't do boring things. He took what (after rigorous self examination) he determined was rightfully his, such as salt from the beaches of his own country, and interrupted the British economy, and provoked a violent response against himself.
not to justify the violent reactions they receive.
It cannot succeed without rigorous self-examination to make sure you, the protester, are not committing injustice.
demands respect by demonstrating respectability.
The courage to get hit and keep coming back while offering no retaliation is one of the few things that can really make a man go, "Huh. How about that."
does not depend on the what the "enemy" does
in order to be successful. It depends on the commitment to nonviolence.
A lack of violence is not necessarily nonviolent protest. Nonviolence is a philosophy, not a description of affairs, and in order for it to work, it must be understood and practiced. Since Martin Luther King, few Americans have done either (BLM included). I suspect part of the reason the authorities often encourage nonviolent protest is that so few citizens know what it really entails.
Both non-provocative "nonviolent" protests and violent protests allow injustice to continue.
The civil rights protests of the 60s were so effective because of the stark contrast between the innocence of the protesters and the brutality of the state.
That is what all nonviolent protest depends upon -- the assumption that their oppressors will
change their behavior, and will thus sow their own downfall if one does not resist. Protesters must turn up the heat against themselves, while doing nothing unjust (though perhaps illegal) and receiving the blows.
If you're an innocent party in a fight, refuse to honor the punishment. This will make them punish you more. But they will have to provide an explanation -- "because he was attacked, or stood up for someone who was being attacked, etc." Continue to not honor punishments. Refuse to acknowledge them. If you're suspended, go to school. Make them take action against you. In the meantime, do absolutely
objectionable. The worse they punish you for -- literally! -- doing nothing, the more ridiculous they will seem.
They will have to raise the stakes to ridiculous heights, handing out greater and greater punishments, and ultimately it will come down to "because he didn't obey a punishment he didn't deserve." The crazier the punishments they hand down, the more attention it will get, and the more support you will get, and the more bad press the administration will get, until it is forced to hand out a proper ruling.
Step 1) Disobey unjust punishments / laws
(Wear Sanders gear and hold Sanders signs!)
Step 2) Be absolutely harmless, polite, and rule-abiding otherwise
(And get removed from a polling place anyway!)
Step 3) Repeat until media sensation
(Film that shit!!)
This is exactly what Gandhi and MLK did, more or less. Nonviolent protests are a lot more than "declining to aggress" -- they're active, provocative, and bring shit down on your head. This is how things get changed.
Part 2: It is worth mentioning that this is a
basic introduction to clear up common misconceptions. Its purpose is to show at a very basic level how nonviolent protest relies on psychological principles, including our innate human dignity, to create a context whereby unjust actions by authorities serve the purposes of the nonviolent actors. (Notice how Bernie Sanders is campaigning.)
The concept of nonviolence as it was conceived by Gandhi -- called
Satyagraha, "clinging to truth" -- goes far deeper and requires extraordinary thoughtfulness and sensitivity to nuance. It is even an affirmation of love, an effort to "melt the heart" of an oppressor.
But now that you're here, I'd like to go into a bit more detail, and share some resources:
Nonviolence is not merely an absence of violence, but a presence of responsibility -- it is necessary to take responsibility for all possible
motivations of violence in your oppressor. When you have taken responsibility even your oppressor would not have had you take (but which is indeed yours for the taking), you become seen as an innocent, and the absurdity of beating down on you is made to stand naked.
To practice nonviolence involves not only the decision not to deal blows, but to proactively pick up and carry any aspects of your own behavior that could motivate someone to be violent toward you or anyone else, explicitly or implicitly. Nonviolence thus extends fractally down into the minutest details of life; from refusing to fight back during a protest, to admitting every potential flaw in an argument you are presenting, to scrubbing the stove perfectly clean so that your wife doesn’t get upset.
In the practice of nonviolence, one discovers the infinite-but-not-endless responsibility that one can take for the world, and for the actions of others. The solution to world-improvement is virtually always self-improvement.
For more information, here are some links I highly recommend:
What happens next depends on a case by case basis, what the protesters are trying to achieve.
Generally, the process looks something like this: 1)
Have a clear set of concrete, measurable, and just demands, and 2)
Protest nonviolently until the establishment agrees to meet them.
Demands need to be specific and have limits.
That is, they can't be "Improve x forever." There needs to be a way to decide together at a future time whether they have concretely been met. (And if not, start protesting again.)
Demands cannot percolate into a whole set of new ones
as soon as you have the upper hand. It's unjust to demand "a minimum wage of $15 an hour" while protesting, and then when the government is cornered by embarrassment and just wants this to stop, to demand "a minimum wage of $20 an hour and free tomatoes for everyone."
Demands must be just.
Note that unjust demands will not work, by principle -- it would be unjust, coercive, violent
to use the spirit of nonviolence to try to extract a concession that would be damaging, humiliating, or otherwise destructive to the state or to other groups of people. The mechanism that nonviolent protest relies on for its effectiveness -- the moral high ground -- would not be able to bear the contradiction of pursuing unjust demands.
The point of nonviolent protest is to create a
harmonious new relationship
with the former oppressor, so to be able to work with them, see their point of view, and have a plan that acknowledges their capabilities and limitations is essential.
It is infinitely better if demands are
something rather than against
For example, "Make and enforce a new police accountability law that accomplishes x, y, and z" rather than "Stop letting police get away with murder."
The reasons for this are multiple:
something gives everyone involved (and society at large) a specific target to aim at.
It presents a vision and puts it in public consciousness. This helps to coordinate action and make that shared, specific vision real. By contrast, being against
something leaves open the decision of what to do instead
-- the government could well pull a Captain Barbosa and say "I promised I'd let you go, it was you
who failed to specify when or where."
something automatically implies that the absence of that thing is a mistake.
In other words, "for-ness" has within it
what "against-ness" was trying to achieve: Don't do x.
If you're for
"Make and enforce a new police accountability law that accomplishes x, y, and z," then not
doing that, or arguing against that, will look like a failure just as much as if you'd said "Don't do p," and they went ahead and did p.
I know reddit hates Mother Teresa, but she was very wise -- she said "I would not attend an anti-war rally; I would attend a pro-peace rally."
It is interesting to note how positivity and negativity interpenetrate -- positivity accounts for negativity within it, but negativity does
account for positivity within it.
This seems to be what led one famous philosopher (St. Augustine) to say, "Evil is that aspect of good which, if it were all there was, there would be nothing."
How Bernie is succeeding in these principles:
He is being "pro-good" instead of "anti-bad."
He is not trying to win us over with fear of an opponent (Republicans, Trump, ISIS, etc.), but talking about serving our actual interests.
He is running a clean campaign, not insulting or attacking Clinton despite inordinate reasons to justifiably do so. This makes makes attacks against him tend to backfire.
He is "walking the talk" by not taking campaign contributions
from Wall St. or big-moneyed interests.
He is encouraging his supporters to follow his example
and also not to engage in smearing and negative campaign tactics.
He is listening extremely well to his opponents and to Republicans.
At town halls he frequently says to questioners from the audience, "I may be wrong, you may disagree" -- which no matter what you believe, is philosophically true. Despite what science may tell us, there are myriad reasons, all human and all innocent (even if not "rational"), that someone may disagree and still have an earnest heart in their inquiry.
What we can do for Bernie:
Occupy Wall St. "failed," in my opinion, because it did not inconvenience those in power enough. Bankers still made their transactions, and everything was fine. Let's brainstorm some IDEAS for protests and nonviolent actions that are both provocative and thoroughly just. Make no mistake: This is difficult thinking. These are difficult conditions to simultaneously meet. But it is the only way we can guarantee success, and the only way we can represent Bernie well.
I will be open to all suggestions and paying attention to this thread and this idea. Post your ideas here and I will see and respond to them. If you see this idea posted elsewhere, please tag me (by writing
in the comments) and/or post a link to this comment.
An idea for the convention
How cool would it be if a million people stood outside the convention
Not all the time, but at certain designated moments going totally silent for a while (a few minutes, an hour, three hours, whatever is needed). Show our power by showing our discipline and solemnity. Show we mean business by showing the extent to which we can restrain, rather than express, ourselves.
If shady things happen on a given day, instead of rioting we simply stand perfectly still and let the convention participants walk through a crowd of silent, disappointed, watchful faces.
If shady dealings happen at the convention, we stay silent, and lie down. Make them literally
-- not just figuratively -- walk all over the people.
Please help get this info out there, it is important. Much of this is written up at
protest.fyi, an easy URL to know and share.
Anyone from Portland interested in going? Any Portlanders want to coordinate or meetup once we are there? How about flying together? I figured I would create this post so we could start to make some plans.
I am currently getting a group of my friends together to go to the protest. We will be flying out to Philadelphia. I will keep everyone updated as I get more information.
If you would like me to add additional information to this post, please PM me and I would be more than willing!
On December 9, 2014 I attended a protest in Oakland. When the riot gear came out with full weaponry in hand and emotionless facial expressions on display, the atmosphere was tense. I saw it as the perfect place to challenge myself to practice empathy. Here they are, ready to beat me at the command of their superior, and if I can open myself to empathize, maybe I can shift the energy. I raised my voice as loud as I could without screaming and started addressing all of the police at once:
“You are not my enemy. Violence is my enemy. I have faith in you. I know there is a human behind that uniform. I won’t give up on you. I know you are not all bad. I know on some level you probably don’t want to be here right now. I know it may pain you to get orders to hit or arrest us. I know there is good inside of you. I know there is another way. You are not my enemy. Violence is my enemy.”
Inside of me emotion was swelling and tears came as I felt that the police were softening up. Some of them acknowledged me with head nods or by waving their hands. The ‘us vs. them’ vibe seemed broken at least for a moment. I noticed the lack of hate within me, and instead the genuine concern for their humanity behind the cold exterior they were displaying. My partner Mica Stumpf described the scene, “There was a real energy shift when you started empathizing with them. The police seemed to relax a bit and feel some relief, maybe because they finally had a good interaction with a protestor. The other protestors seemed to be a bit shocked and intrigued by what you were doing as well. At the very least you planted some seeds.”
The police are not our enemy, violence is our enemy.
Think about this .... how can the DNC win?
They have a flawed candidate, that is polling badly against Trump.
When they look out at 10s of thousands of protesters, they are convicted by the sight of people they are suppose to be serving.
They cling to the power they have, knowing it is given to them through the corruption of big money
The moral stance of their position is self-evident - morally they are in the wrong. They know what they have done to steal this election, they will know what they are trying to do inside the convention to steal the nomination. And they know it is wrong.
They can not win using the moral high ground.
Nonviolent and peaceful protesters - who have had their votes stolen, who have supported Bernie with $27 donations (rather than million dollar donations) have the high ground.
So... the one sure way the DNC can win is if the protesters commit violence. The minute protesters get violent, is the minute our movement loses the moral high ground.
The police are not your enemy, violence is your enemy. If violence erupts this movement will lose.
The article I linked you to has much to say in this regard. There is much to learn here as well... and much to distribute through our Facebook networks, blogs, and twitter networks.