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Activist Effectiveness

Citizens Oversight (2014-11-27) Ray Lutz

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Let's pull this apart a bit more. There are a few different "levels" that such actions may be classified into:

1. "PRIVATE ACTION" -- Club/Group/Forum meetings where you talk about the problem among yourselves. Educational. Improves clarity of understanding of the problem, but nothing else happens because no one else is influenced at the time. Such meetings (or even FB discussions like this) likely result in no actual and direct changes to the world, so as a tactic, it is pretty weak. Media does not cover these.

2. "PUBLIC" - Rally or action in a public place but not positioned near the target in any way, however open to the public, either by inviting them into the meeting/rally or near a freeway or large group of people who are not affected but can see the rally. May include educational aspects of #1 and may draw the media if a march, extreme visuals or confrontational actions are planned and executed, and organizers inform the media in advance of the novel nature of the event. Good thing here is that as the public in the area will take notice and may join in, so this is way better than #1. March Against Monsanto for example, drew thousands of participants, and great (but peaceful) visuals and the media ignores it. The recent rallies at the park re Ferguson are another example with arguable little impact. It is essential that you create your own media and call a press conference in these cases to make sure the media knows they are invited and even if they do not show up, you can leverage the action on the Internet.

3. TARGETED - Actions that may include educational aspects of #1, and increased public exposure and involvement of #2 but are positioned near the target physically and/or in time. The public can understand what it is about and "get the message" (best if possible without reading any signs) because it is near the target or obvious because of timeliness. Occupy Wall Street (in NYC) and Protests at San Onofre fit this mold and were pretty effective and impacted the target. At San Onofre, the utility and operators of the plant had to be aware of it due to high security concerns and thousands on freeway could see it. Sometimes getting near the target is hard, such as at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant because it is far from view of the public unless you are on a boat. Occupy San Diego was not as effective because it did not have as good a targeted characteristic, but because the movement had spread internationally, it was still very effective.

4. DEGREE OF CONFRONTATION -- Along another axis is the degree of confrontation. Even holding the event near the target has some level of confrontation because they will be aware of it and may have to increase security. Bringing a letter to the door with demands, perhaps asking officials to participate, respond, etc. is one way to increase confrontation in the world of ideas without any physical action. We did this with our letter to the President of SDG&E when we protested outside their door. Employees had to exit through side doors and it was clear we rattled the entire staff, although media coverage was still lacking.

Blocking or dissuading customers from entering is a common tactic used when occupying bank lobbies or sidewalks near the bank. I guess blocking Wal Mart would be along these lines, and pretty confrontational, but sort of hard to pull off because most Wal Marts have many driveways and it would take a lot of people. Port closures I think fall into this category.

Blocking customers can backfire, because they are inconvenienced. I noticed the BART strikes were very ineffective and they lost public support by blocking customers from using the service. But at least it was the service related to the employees' issues.

Way at the far end of this scale is blocking random customers from an unrelated private or public facility, such as by closing a freeway, or closing Wal Mart for the Ferguson issue. Time proximity can link the events but the "hurt" is misplaced and confusing.

5. EFFECTIVENESS - The most important measure is the extent to which the action is directly effective. Most of the actions described above are educational for the participants and the public, but there is still no guarantee that there will be any actual changes effected. A big exception to that was Bank Transfer Day. Peaceful, somewhat educational, but it also had the direct effect of moving millions of dollars from greedy wall street banks to local credit unions and local institutions. Very effective.

Most of the actions make participants feel good but they are not effective. Nothing changes as a result. And if no public is impacted, no media shows up, you may was well protest in your closet.

The question we must ask is, how can we get bad cops like Wilson under control? Then, what do we have to do to get those changes adopted? People say they are throwing their hands up (ha ha) in despair because the can't make any real progress. But I think they actually have not even tried actions that have a hope of being effective.


Cop Cams. Gun Cams (my idea: mini cameras on all police guns that record the officer and victim whenever drawn). Better Police Oversight boards with subpoena powers. Social media ratings (like yelp) for cops. Cops that get bad ratings would not get salary increases.

But really, this is the tip of the iceberg. The issues at Ferguson are not just about bad cops, but an entire culture of oppression, economic injustice that was also at the heard of the Occupy movement. It's time to move forward with some of these ideas using the system against itself.


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Title Activist Effectiveness
Publisher Citizens Oversight
Author Ray Lutz
Pub Date 2014-11-27
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Keywords COPs Program
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Topic revision: r1 - 2014-11-27, RaymondLutz

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