Anti-War Protests and Working in DC

This morning in my “General” folder in Outlook (that’s where all the company-wide email goes by default), I found this email from our “Office Manager” noting there will be protests, and concluding with:

Building management plans to operate the building on a normal business throughout the day on Wednesday, March 19, 2008. They will, however, be prepared to lock the building on a moment’s notice should events warrant. Please be advised that you will not receive notice immediately if they make a decision to lock the building based on activity outside the building. They will secure the building first and notify us after securing the property.

Of course nothing happened. But the attitude around the office prior to the protests was one of anxiety (“will they get in our way?”) to disdain (“what do they think they are accomplishing?”). The folks I work with tend to be a mix of liberal to conservative, with those who oppose the war strongly and those who support it.

During the protests there was a mix of interest “The police were there arresting protestors!” and disinterest, which by far ruled the day. In corporate America, the protests were a curiosity. Something to keep an eye on, but otherwise of no consequence. Later today at class (which was full of generally very well informed folks), only one fellow knew the protests even happened, and what they were for.

In my mind, a protest serves several purposes. It is a PR action, it can bolster morale within a movement (and be quite empowering), and it can effect direct action. With the media being the way it is, massive numbers and effective cleverness are necessary for a protest to make waves. It needs to be something new!

That said, I wonder what an anti-war rally with the express purpose of empowering people (to go back to their communities and take action, etc) might look like.

I wonder if anyone has the strength or sees the point of engaging in direct action. The folks at the IRS today were unable to block people from entering. Was it a symbolic victory to have people briefly block the front entrance, and have other protesters hauled off to prison?

What do you think?

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