Ferguson and the sad state of American protesting

During this normally happy holiday period I’ve been watching some seriously disappointing events unfold around the country. They have to do with the quickly evolving and mind bogglingly incomprehensible protests breaking out across the nation in support of the activists in Ferguson. To a certain extent, some of this was not only predictable, but understandable, no matter how you feel about the recent grand jury decision in the Darren Wilson case. There will continue to be some people who feel that the police are the problem (as opposed to people who rob stores, punch the police, etc. being an issue) and will take to the streets to show solidarity with them in many locations.

But unlike some past efforts at public enlightenment, how are these protesters getting their message across today? For one thing, it seems that they want everyone to not shop on Black Friday.

A movement to boycott Black Friday may be gaining some traction as a protest in honor of Michael Brown, the unarmed teen killed by a police officer.

Riots broke out in Ferguson, Mo., Monday night after the grand jury decided not to charge officer Darren Wilson in Brown’s death. Protests continued Tuesday night with a torching of a police car and scores of arrests.

The ruling has sparked a national conversation about race and justice with the hashtags #BoycottBlackFriday and #BlackoutBlackFriday spreading on Twitter and a Facebook page.

Yeah, brothers and sisters! That should show ’em! Because we all know that one of the chief contributing factors in friction between law enforcement and minority citizens in economically disadvantaged communities is … people buying Christmas presents at Target?

I’m sorry, but what the heck do these two things have to do with each other? Justice for Mike Brown is somehow typified by not looking for a deal on a new Playstation 4 for your kid? If you were fighting for an increased minimum wage or some other union sponsored astroturfing against major retailers, (as misguided as such efforts may be) you could kind of see why a Black Friday boycott could sort of make sense. But this is crazy. Do these protesters not actually understand why it’s called Black Friday and think that it’s something to do with race?

Those not trying to shut down commerce came up with a different tactic. And this is an important one to look at, because it speaks to the entire mechanism of protesting and how a group can achieve goals involving social change. The entire idea of taking to the streets and getting the network news cameras pointed at you is to drum up support with the public. Making them aware of your message – and far more importantly, sympathetic to it – is how a movement gathers steam which eventually results in action at the ballot box.

With that in mind, perhaps someone could point us to the Einstein who decided that a good way to get the public on board with whatever change is being requested would be to shut down the highways?

A lot of San Diegans were caught in gridlock when a group of student protesters from my alma mater, University of California – San Diego, blocked Interstate 5 just in time for morning rush hour.

The reports of highway- and byway-blocking demonstrations are coming from across the nation;

Protesters block the 101 Freeway in Los Angeles; over 200 demonstrators have been arrested in that city.
Ferguson protest spills on to I-95 in Providence; 5 people are arrested there.
20 Ferguson protesters briefly blocked the Durham Freeway in North Carolina during rush hour.
The I-580 in Oakland, CA was closed by demonstrations.
7 Dallas protesters are behind bars after a demonstration shut-down a highway.
Protesters in Cleveland shut down a major artery for an hour.
Northbound I-75 in Detroit was closed because of Ferguson demonstrations.

As I watched the coverage on CNN Wednesday night, I was just shaking my head. There were camera crews spread out in dozens of cities giving breathless updates every five minutes on who was marching where, what signs were being held up, and what was on fire. But in at least three locations their film crews were standing by and watching a mob breaking down fences near highways and spilling out into the roadway to bring traffic to a halt.

The very first thing which came to my mind was to place myself in the position of a commuter who might not be all that familiar with the events in Ferguson hearing about the movement on the news later one. Oh.. so those were the guys who kept me sitting on I-90 for five freaking hours when I was supposed to be picking up cranberry sauce for my mother-in-law? Oh, I definitely will want to get on board with their legislation.

Americans taking to the streets and making their feelings known to both their elected representatives and the rest of the public is a long, proud tradition in our country. What’s happened to it is a bit of a mystery. The Occupy movement was probably one of the biggest fails in recent history, largely because they managed to annoy – if not horrify – the communities where they set up their squalid camps filled with rape tents and peppered with people defecating on police cruisers. This latest crop of activists seems to be following in that fine tradition. Here’s a short hint for those of you still open to considering your options:

You’re doing it wrong.