is imperfect action worse than no action at all?
I had a mixed experience last night at a march against the murder of Michael Brown, but it appears that a protest that happened earlier in the day had the organization and rhetoric I was looking for.
These screenshots were taken from the Michael Brown to Eric Garner — This Has to Stop NOW! Seattle Stands with Ferguson, Missouri! Facebook event page.
The Michael Brown to Eric Garner protest started at 4pm Saturday in Westlake Park. The protest I attended started at 8pm Saturday in Capitol Hill. At 4, I had just biked to Bothell and was reading Middlemarch eating blackberries on a bench in the sun near a stream because I have the privilege of coming in and out of political awareness and action when it is convenient to me.
I mean I’m challenging my privilege and struggling to make change but also acknowledging it.
My problem with the march attended last night was the lack of organization and consistent messaging. I am not ok with violence or threats of violence and did not feel comfortable when protesters started shouting those messages. I am not ok with breaking the law and did not feel comfortable when protesters decided to take to the streets.
When I voiced my discomfort with law-breaking, someone replied that the worst thing that would happen was that the Seattle police would ask us to get back on the sidewalk. That was a weird opinion for me to hear because we were literally at that very moment protesting the murder of an unarmed black teenager who had been walking in the street with his friend. Like I know we’re in Seattle and we’re white and we’re privileged (the protest I attended was mostly but not all white) but we’re also educated and informed. We KNOW a polite request from the police is not “the worst thing that would happen.”
Casual law-breaking is a position of privilege. Michael Brown could not walk in the street without violent consequence. Dr. Ersula Ore could not walk in the street without violent consequence.
But the march last night happened, in all its imperfection. We took the streets without consequence. I acknowledge the protest had positives: It let Capitol Hill know its friends, neighbors and peers are politically aware and inspired to make change. It made attendees feel less alone in their knowledge and anger. It inspired me to read and write more on this topic.
But also maybe Capitol Hill now thinks its friends, neighbors and peers are ready to make change violently. Maybe people uncomfortable with violence will be less likely to get involved. If last night’s protest was someone’s first experience with political action, and they didn’t like what they saw, will it be their last?
But would it have been better to stay home and stay silent? At least we got inspired and active. Is imperfect action worse than no action at all?