Monday, March 19, 2012

Surely, there must be something better to do...

Surely, there must be something better to do than to get arrested......especially when you know you'll get arrested.

This thought has been running through my head about Occupy Wall Street and other Occupy groups for sometime now. And especially when I heard about the movement's 6 month "anniversary," if that's the word for it.

I wrote a piece for Talon Magazine, the campus magazine I work for, about Occupy awhile ago. The issue in which it is printed just came out recently. A lot has changed since I submitted that piece and its printing. Hearing about the 6 month mark for Occupy made me realize the difference in the way I felt about the movement when I wrote the piece and how I do now.

I've been to protests and marches myself. We made our voice and presence known. We even got media attention, but we didn't have to get arrested for it.

The mass arrest of people exercising their first amendment rights is an abhorrence. The use of police force against such a group of people makes me cringe, whatever their political persuasion may be. And I feel like that is all I see when I see Occupy groups - on Wall Street in Zucotti Park today or in downtown Atlanta - people getting arrested.

If you know that you are going to get arrested over and over again, then maybe its time to change your strategy. The movement got the media attention this way, and I don't think its too much of a stretch to say they had many people's sympathy early on. But now, its time to move on. Sure, this is the part the media covers, but isn't a good media relations arm part of an effective movement?

What else does the Occupy movement do? Do they organize their localities to make change for themselves? Do they provide services to their communities? Or do they just protest and wait till the police show up?

I want to be clear. I know that many of these arrests have been unjust and even unconstitutional. I know a few people personally who have been arrested for ridiculous reasons, or for no reason at all. But it is time to change the tactics, time to change strategy. These groups have been marked by so many repeated arrests that it overshadows their messages. I know the history of the Civil Rights movement. I know John Lewis has been arrested more times than I can count, but it is not 1964. John Lewis was arrested protesting the Jim Crow laws, not occupying a park for days on end.

There is a time to rally, protest, assemble, and petition. But activism, advocacy for real change, should also extend beyond a protest and handcuffs.