Throughout American history, disruptive protests have been valuable tools to force change in society. It often takes powerful actions to get enough attention for an issue. Chicago’s mounting problems deserve the type of protests made popular in the 1960s, but that’s not what we’re getting on Labor Day.
Instead, we’re likely going to get a huge headache that accomplishes little other than expanding the self-interests of the organizers.
Livingston has a list of demands ranging from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s resignation to repurposing closed schools for businesses and other uses that stabilize neighborhoods.
He also wants economic investment on the South and West sides “commensurate” with spending on the North Side and downtown, legislation to encourage hiring of released inmates and resources for black-led anti-violence efforts.
“I’d would rather see my people marching on the expressways than dying in the streets,” Livingston tweeted Sunday.
While the motivations seem admirable, the methodology behind the protests is flawed. Attempting to shut down the highway that leads to the second busiest airport in America on Labor Day will have one of two immediate results. Either they’ll fail because police are able to keep traffic going or they’ll succeed and cause harm to innocent travelers. Either way, the optics are horrible.
Let’s look at the first scenario. If they fail to do what they set out to do, it will demonstrate weakness of the movement, its leadership, or both. Protests must be successful to be effective. Otherwise, organizers cannot get the additional support they seek.
If they’re able to achieve their goals, they’re going to make a whole lot of people mad. They aren’t causing a ruckus at city hall or screaming across the fence at the Governor’s Mansion. Instead, they’re taking their grievances to the people by harming the people themselves. Instead of endearing more people to their cause, they’ll end up pushing people away.
The only people who can benefit from a protest like this are the organizers themselves. It helps them build their “civil disobedience resume” and gives them a taller platform upon which they can promote their agenda. Unfortunately for those following them, that agenda likely does not include the changes they espouse. If it does, then they’re going about it all wrong.
There are many ways in today’s world to make big changes in a city like Chicago when you have the people behind you. Harming citizens of and visitors to Chicago isn’t one of them.
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