On Saturday, March 24th I attended the March for Our Lives in Albany, NY. Since the election in 2016 there seem to be more marches than usual, whether they be for science, women or equality. There was one big difference between those marches and the March for Our Lives— I was there. While I am wholeheartedly behind the goals of the Women’s march, March for Science and the Black Lives Matter movement, I never felt that I needed to be there. I felt like I could support those movements from afar, but not the March for Our Lives— I knew I needed to go to this one. The current movement surrounding gun laws is here to stay, and it has everything it needs to cause an impact.
Erica Chenoweth published an article in the Washington Post, entitled, “People Are in the Streets Protesting Donald Trump. But When Does Protest Actually Work?” In this piece she outlines 10 conditions that, if fulfilled, result in the most successful protests. The current protest against gun violence, which is encompassing the March for Our Lives, fulfills all of those conditions, and that is why this movement isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
The firs, third, and fourth conditions emphasize is that nonviolent protest is more effective than violent protest. In addition, mixing violence and non-violence is not a strategy for success. At the March for Our Lives there was chanting, walking and some singing, but there was no violence. In fact, the core goals of the March for Our Lives is to prevent violence, so it is likely that these peaceful protests will continue to be peaceful.
The second condition is that “the number and diversity of mass movements matter.” Nationally this is an enormous movement which involves thousands if not millions of individuals. In addition, at the March for Our Lives in Albany I was able to see the diversity of the people involved. At the protest were people of all ages, all colors, all socioeconomic statuses, all gender identities and all political identities. While gun legislation can be a controversial and partisan issue, the vast majority of people in this country can agree that children in school should not have to worry if they are going to make it home at the end of the day.
The fifth condition is that the movement can not just have one method of getting it’s point across. While the March for Our Lives in Albany was a rally it is not the only way individuals associated with the movement are trying to create change. At the rally itself there were also tables for individuals to register to vote, and outside of the rally countless individuals have been calling their senators and their representatives to call for change. American businesses are also leading the way. In the wake of the Parkland shooting both Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart changed their in store rules of what is required to buy a gun. In addition, many companies have distanced themselves from the NRA and have pledged to do so until the NRA agrees to common sense gun reform.
The sixth is that protests should aim to change individuals incentives, because that will be much more efficient than trying to change hearts and minds. The prevailing notion at the March for Our Lives in Albany was that the people are showing their legislators what they want, and if they don’t want to get on board they can get out of office during elections later this year.
The seventh is that ignorer for nonviolent protests to be effective they take time, and based on the determination of many people I talked to at the March it doesn’t seem like they plan on moving on from this issue anytime soon— and I certainly don’t.
The tenth statement Chenoweth makes is the nonviolent protests can save lives, and if this protest isn’t an example of a movement that can save lives I don’t know what is.
The takeaway I had from the March for Our Lives, besides being incredibly proud of all of the people who turned out, was that this is what democratic progress looks like. The people coming together to push forward an agenda that is for the common good— not just an interest group.
*Photo by March for Our Lives, “March For Our Lives”, Creative Commons Zero license.