We seem to be protesting a lot these days here in Miami. I’m being invited to attend a rally or protest pretty much every day. Signs. Songs. Chants. It’s exhilarating to feel connected to community members who believe so strongly in women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigrant rights, black lives matter, our environment, solar energy, affordable housing, and so much more. It’s also exhausting. Just how did people like Gandhi and Dr. King do it day after day?
It ends up they knew to pace themselves. They created non-violent movements that managed to succeed because they were strategic, not just exuberant. I’m fortunate enough to actually know someone who knows a lot about it, and he just happened to be hosting a non-violence workshop just the moment I wanted to learn more about how people have used non-violent action makes change happen. University of Miami lecturer Dr. Elton Skendaj caught my attention when he passed out a handout listing 198 Methods of Non-Violent Action methods to implement non-violence. In other words, we can use a variety of tactics to achieve our goals. I wonder if that might be why the Occupy Wall Street movement did such a good job at one tactic – occupying – that it couldn’t move on to the tactics need to achieve its mission, the bettering of life for the 99%.
There are acts of commission like a protest. There are acts of omission like a boycott. The list goes on and on (up to 198). But Elton (he’s a friend so I don’t feel so obliged to refer to him as Professor) made clear that without broad community involvement these movements don’t succeed. The key ingredient is participation. He cited research that shows that success is most likely when 3% of the population is involved in a non-violent movement and those involved must be diverse and broad-based. That number makes me nervous. There are 2.7 million souls living in Miami-Dade County. I haven’t yet seen 81,000 of us speaking up collectively through non-violent activities yet.
P.S. You can find out more about the Albert Einstein Institution. It’s pretty inspiring to know that a man whose genius helped us stop a terrible war with a terrifyingly dangerous weapon founded an institution committed to teaching us how we might try to affect change without relying primarily on violence. It arms us with 198 non-violent tools.