We must look beyond the BlackLivesMatter protests to a place we all stand together: guest opinion


Via AL.com:

This past weekend, I saw a post from BlackLivesMatter-Birmingham’s facebook page.  It hailed their latest event as a success.

Before I get into why I disagree with the notion that, “Today was an ASTOUNDING success,” let me first give context to my point of view.

I’ve been involved in so many protests/rallies over the last 10 years I’ve lost count.  I’ve protested against Cap & Trade energy policy, against IRS discriminatory actions, against Obamacare, against abortion, against restrictions on the Second Amendment, against Congress taking action during a lame duck session.  I’ve rallied for coal jobs and against pending EPA restrictions.

I could go on but I assume you get my point. This is coming from a place of experience.

There’s a right and a wrong way to protest. When the lead of your news stories are about arrests and even the coverage you got of the rally itself left little by way of answers on how to solve the problem you’re protesting, then I’d argue your event wasn’t a success.

What has my experience taught me?  Here are three keys to a successful event:

There’s got to be more on the agenda than what happened last Friday or your wasting both effort and opportunity.
  1. Always be mindful of the “take away” you want and get it picked up
You’re protesting because you want to bring attention to an important cause or issue.  You want to create positive change. You have a problem and a plan to fix it. These things are your “take away.”
Don’t lose sight of those goals.  When your protest is over hopefully you’ve changed a few minds of those with opposing views, or better yet, reached those who were apathetic to the problem to start with. It’s most important to reach those who had no opinion on your issue – that’s when you start really making a difference by creating a conversation that wasn’t previously happening around dinner tables and water coolers.
Hopefully you’ve enlightened and engaged someone and emboldened those on your own side.  In order for this to be the case everyone coming and going needs to take away the positive message you’re there to tell.
  1. Be mindful of where you are 

Follow state, federal, local laws.  I’m personally against “free speech zones” in public areas, except during times when they are needed for security or respect such as funerals or big events.  I’m also against needing to pay for permits to protest but since local areas require this it is important that the rules apply to everyone and that each group shows the respect for the laws and get one.  I believe free speech should in fact be free. The place to argue this is not on the side of the road but instead in the city or county chambers where our elected officials settle such rules.

I don’t believe it was the constitutional intent of our founding fathers to put protesters in a roped off area to talk amongst themselves. However, I also support personal property rights as well as laws created to maintain peace and keep protesters and the public safe.  These rules and laws sometimes require permits and permission.  If prior authorization is needed before your event, get it, because it’s just the responsible thing to do and will save everyone trouble in the long run.

  1. Respect those around you, especially law enforcement officers and first responders 
You have a point to get across. You’re not standing out on the side of a road or laying on the ground for the fun of it, though in all honesty I’ve had a lot of fun with likeminded people at rallies and protest.
Don’t let the take-away of your event be that the group or people in it weren’t respectful of the community they were in.  Instead make it that you were concerned, polite citizens doing your part. You can practice both civil disobedience and respect for those who are not participating in your protest and/or law enforcement.  If you’re protesting and a law enforcement officer directs you to do something or not do something short of compromising your safety or integrity, just do it.  If you’re told to disperse, then disperse.  If you feel the law enforcement officer isn’t saying or doing the right thing, keep in mind that it may not be the right time to argue.  Use common sense.  Thin the crowd and address your concerns in the right tone, at the right time and to the right person.

I’m all for peaceful protests.  We should all be for peaceful protests.  We just need to be mindful that a protest can only do so much.  Beyond standing together we have to narrow down the focus of our problems and look for solutions.

When you leave your protest don’t just go home and complain.  Don’t just go plan another protest.  Go into a community and make a difference.  If your protests have media covering it don’t just use that opportunity to rail against your opposition.  Use it to push an agenda that is good. Invite the media to see what else you’re doing. Be responsive to their questions and understand that telling your story is your purpose. Talking in an echo chamber won’t change the world.  That takes the power of the pen these days.

People protest when things are bad, but people don’t need to hear what’s bad, they need to hear how they can be a part of fixing it.

Though I saw the news on the recent protests I couldn’t tell you what they were hoping to accomplish. I’ve heard the chants #NoJusticeNoPeace but is that peace for everyone? Peace for law enforcement?  No justice for what? I don’t think there will be redo’s in either of the grand jury cases that have happened. After reading the stories, listening to the video I didn’t hear a lot of solutions being offered for solving the problem. Go back to the table, talk amongst yourselves and look me up if you want to talk.  There’s got to be more on the agenda than what happened last Friday or you’re wasting both effort and opportunity.

The issue of the day shouldn’t be as cut and dry as recent headlines tell us.  We have to look beyond #BlackLivesMatter and/or #BlueLivesMatter.  We need to get to a place where we can all stand together regardless of race, political affiliation, and social backgrounds and be certain that #AllLivesMatter.  Only then can we collectively create positive change. We’re better when we’re in this fight together.

Apryl Marie Fogel is a new Alabama resident who works as a conservative political activist.