Protesting is coming back, and it’s a good thing

By Ian Hagerty

( Hong Kong, Sept. 30. Photo by Pasu Au Yeung)
 Hong Kong, Sept. 30. (Pasu Au Yeung/MCT)

I was inspired by the recent People’s Climate March in New York City on Sept. 21. I wasn’t able to attend the demonstration, but the event itself is amazed me and I have long been a believer in the human impact on climate change.

When I see large-scale protests, I think of the 1960s. I think of masses and masses of angry, youthful liberated minds throwing caution to the wind and taking a stand for what they believe in. Back then, with the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War, the people had good and clear reasons to be upset. They wanted equality and they wanted their brothers home. Because of this, people banded together. They knew their enemies.

The air of rebellion and protest that washed over this country and much of the world in the 1960s never went away. Most educated people I’ve met practice a healthy amount of questioning their authorities. However, it isn’t hard to notice that there are still problems in the world, and people don’t seem to be taking to the streets with the fervor that they once possessed.

A couple of years ago, we had the Occupy Wall Street protest. Peaceful protests began near Zuccotti Park in New York City and continued until the police successfully disbanded and arrested the protesters. I remember having a glimmer of hope then. However, it just looked like the movement didn’t have enough support. Ever heard of mob rule? Mutiny? The entire premise of a successful protest is to outnumber those in charge and prove what the people really want or deserve. With Occupy Wall Street, the police won. The government and banks won.

Although the majority of the public should be very upset with our banks, media institutions haven’t helped to educate them about financial abuses. This type of abuse can be lost in translation by many. Also, people rely on banks as much as they despise them.

Climate change though, is a big ugly monster shooting flames out of its nostrils. Nearly everyone has heard of the potentially horrific problems that can be caused by climate change – hurricanes, crop failure, coastal flooding, animals and plant life dying. Even those who don’t believe in climate change would be terrified by the potential problems it causes, and even they can’t deny smog and pollution. Our warming planet is our own fault, and it is an enemy most of us can agree is bad.

Over 400,000 people attended the People’s Climate March this September. This is a staggering number of people marching down the street and demanding attention together. A demonstration such as this cannot be swept under the carpet and ignored.

New York welcomed the march, and there weren’t any real problems between police and demonstrators. All the same, even if the police wanted to enforce some sort of rule over the demonstrators, they didn’t have the ability. They just didn’t have the manpower. With a mob this big, demonstrators are protected from prosecution by the sheer size of their force, and this collective protection guarantees that the protestors will be able to voice their concerns. A group of this size also attracts more media attention and can spread the word further along to interested parties that couldn’t attend or even those who weren’t informed at all. Everything about a bigger demonstration is better.

The 1960s was a decade of love, peace and incredible conflict. Many used the incredible surge of love to battle oppression and abuse to whatever extent they could. Those hippies made an impact. Now, after seeing the People’s Climate March, I can’t help but think a similar stir is in the air.

The last time there was a major student protest in China, it was Tiananmen Square. The protests ended in bloodshed. Now, students are demanding democracy in Hong Kong. I wish them strength and luck, and I hope this trend continues.

Ian Hagerty is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]