PUSHin’ the Envelope – The Importance of Peaceful Protest

By Lonnie Barlow, Organizer, PUSH Buffalo

This is just a friendly reminder to stand up for your rights.

People always ask members of our organization why we protest and attend so many public demonstrations.

Change never occurred without some form of action or confrontation. I don’t know about you, but I did pretty well in social studies and world history classes. Whether it was the French, American, Bolshevik, or Industrial Revolution, or the numerous civil wars that have taken place over the years, change never really comes about in a smooth way. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the reasons for change, people decided that they didn’t like something and they said, “A change is gonna come.” 

Government, as it exists today, is based on the premise that those in power “work” for the betterment of all individuals within our society. The writers of the U.S. Constitution came to together to solidify a burgeoning nation and set it in motion. They cleverly crafted a document that was, for all intents and purposes, pretty straightforward.

Our Founding Fathers understood human nature – after all, they were students of world history. They knew the world would change. They knew that, over time, no one person or group would ever stay the same. Views on slavery, women’s rights, and things not yet conceived would change as both the nation and people changed. They tried their best to build provisions into this document that would allow for change, but to also avoid the prospect of absolutely destroying what was created in the beginning.

The founders understood that money talks and that too much of anything can make a person go either way. Money and power are no exceptions to this rule. At times, they can act like an addictive drug, exuding power over the one in “control.”

Our Founding Fathers knew that if the balance of power (in government) tipped too much in the wrong direction, then the masses would need to have some options to help tip it – the power – back. In a capitalist society in which money can buy you anything, including love and a political office, the right of the people to organize (or protest) is key.

The concept of people coming together out a perceived “wrong” has been running through my mind since I took part in the recent, peaceful, picket outside of National Fuel Gas on Wednesday. I believe Nate Buckley said it best when he asked, “Why are we out here? What would make someone want to demonstrate or protest? What are people thinking when they pass us by?”

People don’t have to protest every hour of every day of every week, but it doesn’t hurt to keep an eye on current events. I think of it like this: for every moment you spend living your life, there is someone out there working overtime to feed their latest fix for money or power. They’ll work extremely hard for their “fix,” and they won’t think twice about harming someone in the process. Even drug addicts need some type of counseling or rehab, right? You know, that dose of reality that will wake them the heck up and help get them off drugs.

Well, this is what a peaceful demonstration will do.

Whatever your issue – preservation, low-income weatherization, fracking, police brutality, prisoner’s rights, anti-war efforts, crime, education, or sustainability, change won’t come until you get up and go do something about it…peacefully, that is!

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