The Limitations of Marches - by Benny Soran
You see it every time you open up your Instagram newsfeed after a political march: oversaturated pictures of witty signs, selfies of eager march-goers, cliche hashtags like #neveragain and #alwaysremember. Usually, these posts rack up a fair amount of likes, with followers praising the gall and strength of the original poster. The presence of individuals at protest marches are integral parts of our democracy. With so many issues prevalent in today’s society, marches help center Americans and remind them of the importance of protesting injustices and participating in marches. But when are marches enough? At what point does holding signs and crying chants not suffice?
Political protests are an undeniably powerful mechanism through which change can be enacted. The act of protesting has been able to change conversations surrounding issues like gun control, women’s rights, abortion, etc. The movements that are created through protests help catalyze organizational efforts that enable continuous participation that support a protest’s agenda for the long haul. However, when confronted with the ramifications of political protest, it is imperative to question the motivations behind the act and the true impact that the act will have on politics and legislation.
In today’s world, protests are often organized in a matter of days and carried out in a matter of hours. The ability of technology to foster large-scale organizational efforts is astounding. For the Women’s March, organizers were able to assemble about 2 million people spread out all over the globe. The organization time? Just two months. After the marches, people felt charged with energy, ready to combat Trump’s misogynistic, bigoted administered. However, as time went on, the protest’s messages began to dwindle. Many protesters left their civic engagement at the protest; after posting several images from the events, they continued to live their lives as if nothing had happened.
While marches are excellent opportunities to showcase various inequalities and problems surrounding our current democracy, they have become cultural events by which protesters can share their Instagram-ready posters, don their ostentatious protest uniforms, and then forget about it after their photo has been uploaded to the social media platform of their choice. Marches can no longer be treated as the end-all-be-all of social justice and politics; they must be seen as the starting point.
After leaving a march, one’s intentions should be focused on the future: what can one do after the protest? For starters, it is imperative to channel the frustration and passion that one may feel and use it to establish communication with their local, state, or Congressional lawmakers. Protesting is simply not enough. One must reach out to the lawmakers whose job it is to enact the desired change into real-life policies. Once communication has been established, the intended policy changes could potentially be implemented into society. Additionally, the power of voting should not be overlooked. According to the United States Census Bureau, only about 46.1% of voters between the ages of 18-29 voted in the 2016 presidential election. There is a stark contrast between this number and the 70.9% of voters 65 and older that voted in the same election. The passion that some may feel for posting their protest photos on social media does not seem to extend to the voting booth. Rallying and drawing funny signs is easy; coming out to vote two years after the protest is not.