Sunday, December 31, 2006

More on organising and protests

On the night of the 14th of February I dreamt of a small anti-war march it was fractured and disorganised, with only about 100 people there.

On February 15th I walked down to the starting point of the anti-war march I had helped organise. On every corner I saw people I didn't recognise going to the march, they were carrying banners, and children. When I got to the park we were supposed to start in it was over-flowing. We'd expected 500 people, and 5,000 turned up.

As an activist you work in the dark, you spend so much time working on issues that you care passionately about, but you seem to be a very small minority. Then occasionally you're not in the minority anymore, you're overwhelmed by the number of people who support you. Those are the moments that make this worth doing.

We organised another, just as big march, then, just after the war started, we organised another - and no-one came. That happens, the huge support you were shocked by disappears as the media melts away. I don't think this happens because people stop caring, but because that hope that they can make a difference is taken away.

I've thought a lot about that time, and I think what we should have done differently, is spent more time on getting people involved over a longer period, and less on the urgent, urgent, now, now, now.

I thought I'd learned that lesson. But then this year, a similar thing happened, a small group of women gave out leaflets, and it became clear that many, many, many, many, people were angry about the cop rape verdict. However, it never became anything more. I assume those wells of anger, and the experience that it was based on, is still there. But the opportunity to tap them has been lost. If we'd been organising against cop-rape this time last year, then we would have been able to do so much more.

I wouldn't take any of it back, I'd still organise that march, even though it was a disastorous mess, and I think what happened after the cop rape verdict was incredibly important. I think what I've learned is that you can't predict these groundswells, so you have to be prepared to do the ground organising so that when the support materialises it doesn't vanish away just as quickly.

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