On Protests, If it bleeds, should it lead? Author: RaineDate:05/21/2012 17:27:50
This morning I have been watching some truly awful photos from the protests at the NATO summit in Chicago. They are brutal. There was violence - to the point that CNN (via Don Lemon) actually reported about it.
To which I say: really? I am not going to take anything away from Don Lemon, who correctly asked "Does Anybody Deserve This!" It's longish, but it is truly worth listening to what Mr. Lemon is discussing. He is watching a video feed from the protests.
Over the weekend literally thousands of people marched in protest. Police engaged in what I would consider violence. It appears that the lesser-reported story was this from CNN:
Protesters vowed to carry out disruptive demonstrations Monday in Chicago, a day after baton-wielding police clashed with demonstrators in a violent confrontation that left dozens injured just blocks from where NATO leaders were gathered.
Security was expected to be tight on the final day of the two-day NATO summit, which has played out against a backdrop of protests that has seen thousands taken to the street to protest everything from the war in Afghanistan to the economy.
Occupy Chicago, one of the groups that helped organize the demonstrations, took to social media to urge people to join in another planned demonstration at 10 a.m. ET on Monday.
Dozens were injured in a melee Sunday that came at the end of a largely, peaceful demonstration that began in Chicago's Grant Park, where President Barack Obama delivered his presidential acceptance speech in 2008.
That is the entire blog post - the entire thing. I posted it so as to not try to sway opinion (something that I have a tendency to do, unapologetically in many cases). Note the very last paragraph: "largely, peaceful demonstration". And yet it wasn't peaceful. People were beaten. There was blood. It was gruesome.
Then there is this, from a local Chicago news report:
I'd like to return to this particular portion of the report:
In the shadow of the Nato summit, under the watchful eyes of a phalanx of full-black-clad riot police, dozens of former servicemen and women in uniform, veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, threw away their medals, with apologies. It was one of the most moving experiences many of us had witnessed in our lives. It is hard to describe in words. I couldn't get the lump out of my throat. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a woman next to me crying. Their words, their voices, crackling under the emotion of their courageous act, breaking under the weight of the pain, the trauma, their anger, sadness, and hope – theirs was a heroic and beautiful act, a moving ceremony. It was a privilege to be there with these women and men who served in our wars.
Operation Iraqi Freedom medal. Tossed. Global War on Terror medal. Thrown. National Defense medal. Pitched. Marine Corps Good Conduct medal. Flung. Navy and Marine Corps medal. Chucked.
Most of the reporting of the demonstrations that met the summit will focus on the minor violence, on the few clashes between protesters and police, on the blood, on everything that happened after the peaceful march was over. In our sad world of spectacle, the pushing and shoving will be all that gets our attention. It is a pity.
Because what was truly remarkable today was the American servicewomen and men tossing their medals back at Nato. In a mixture of sadness, shame, anger, and pride, of trauma, sorrow, and pain, some looking back at their time in Iraq and Afghanistan, some healing from PTSD, others chanting Occupy slogans, these men and women showed a type of courage that the Nato leaders should have been forced to watch. Tragically, our leaders were busy posing for photo ops. They should have been forced to listen to these courageous men and women, to their veterans. It is their loss, ultimately.
Yes, there is something to be said about the world's leaders posing for photo opportunities. My larger question here (and one that I am trying to process) is this often used quote: If it bleeds,it leads. It appears so to me at this point. With that thought in mind, does the blood letting -- be it from police or those that seek to provoke such reactions -- overshadow a very important message that many people - myself included - wish to spread?: We want to end the wars. We want to do so thru nonviolent protest. We want to do it without provoking violence. I am not excusing the Chicago police department here. What I am wondering is why provocation is being used as a way to promote protest.
A few reports are coming in that this provocation has been the result of a tactic called the black bloc. I don't know enough about this to truly comment. Watch the videos; you will hear that word used. My major question here is: when does provocation become more important than the actual message that a protest is trying to convey? Is it doing more harm than good?
Do we ignore the violence or do we focus on the peaceful protests? Can we find someplace in the middle -- a place where we can celebrate the good -- while feeling disappointment at those that may not represent the greater good?
As I said earlier -- I am not excusing the actions of the Chicago police department. What I want to know is why we should excuse those that may have acted to provoke violence in the name of protest. Is this the kind of action I want done in my name as a person who seeks social justice, an end to wars and economic reform? For myself I say "no". I think that it actually hurts the message.
Veterans should have had the lead story over the weekend as opposed to people choosing to be intentionally provocative. These soldiers throwing away their medals in protest of a war that has decimated our nation was a truly noble and brave thing. That, in my opinion, is an act of peaceable protest, whether one agrees or disagrees with the veterans who participated.
Provoking violence just to show the world how 'the man' wants to keep you down is simply, to be honest, immature. It's no wonder some people don't take protests seriously anymore. Well -- unless it bleeds, then CNN is more than willing to cover it, without context and real reporting. I like Don Lemon -- but there seemed to be little background provided for what he was reporting. When people don't get the entire story, things just seem to become more divided.
People need to show up. People need to be nonviolent. People need to have a message. This picture says more to me than anything else:
That picture is vastly different than this:
Yet, the latter, and the narrative seemed to have garnered far more media attention. Just look at the twitter comments.
I'm not so sure about what happened in Chicago over the weekend. What I am sure about is that if you are looking for a fight you are going to get one. The best fights to be had are those that don't provoke violence from the people who have the bully clubs. The real question I ask is to what end? What does this do? How does it help?
Maybe a little less blood and a little more love? Can we get the media to pay attention to that? Sadly, I think I am afraid of that answer. I wonder who is feeding the narrative of violent protest; The media, anarchists or law enforement?
Or, is it all three? This is a picture from the Chicago Tribune: