Michael D. Kennedy, Professor of Sociology and International and Public Affairs, Brown University

4 responses to “Love, solidarity and the #WomensMarch in PVD, RI”

  1. PinkHatLib

    “When a young disturbed man ambled through the crowd shouting ‘Trump Pence’, elder escorts followed him to be sure that his angry affect would not diminish with a violent confrontation the love so evident in the crowd.”

    Thanks for writing about that.

    For the benefit of everyone not there, that protest was allowed to go on for several minutes with the young man ascending the State House steps to within a few feet of the speaker. Instead of police, the Women’s Rally sent in a couple of women who looked like someone’s mother or grandmother to handle the situation. Real bravery on their part. Eventually he left on his own, perhaps surprised at gentle response of the organizers.

    The real action is the reaction of the opposition, indeed. Was quite proud to be a progressive at that moment.

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  2. Randall Rose

    Some people boycotted the women’s rally Saturday since Raimondo was the lead speaker. Although their voices weren’t heard that day, I want to mention their perspective. There are alternative ways of organizing a grassroots action.

    One approach is to let the politicians speak, but also allow ordinary people to question them. A memorable example was the huge Hope High School meeting the weekend after Trump’s election, which started Resist Hate RI. Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza spoke then, but Servio Gomez criticized him from the audience, and Sophia Wright acknowledged the need for grassroots criticism.

    Saturday’s women’s rally represented another approach. The organizers started by highlighting the “VIPs”, who got to speak first, and the audience participated by cheering. There was an overall sense that women’s power was important and that Rhode Island VIPs like lead speaker Gina Raimondo were a pretty good example of the kind of power we want. There was a comfortable feeling that we were all together in peacefully resisting distant opponents who live in places like the White House. This approach has its pluses. But it also has the disadvantage that it presents elite-favoring politicians like Raimondo as being definitely on our side — and politicians can and do exploit that impression to take more actions that are harmful to ordinary people, like some of the actions that Raimondo has done and continues to do. The rally organizers did repeatedly encourage people to visit the tables hosted by civic groups, but in my view there is more they could have done to encourage a shift in decisionmaking power from the few to the many. I think giving a starring role to a politician like Raimondo is, in a way, something that strengthens power where it already is. And the excellent ideas on the signs of the thousands there didn’t really get joined together into something that can make decisions independently of what people like Raimondo want. I think the rally accomplished some good, but it’s worth understanding why some people I know chose to boycott it over Raimondo’s role.

    One alternative way of organizing is a little more democratic. When there are thousands of people, or even just a few, who are joined in concern and a desire to do better, it’s great for them to have a chance to form things like working groups, so that they can be organized together to achieve long-term results. That wasn’t done at Saturday’s big rally. I’m not saying the way Saturday’s rally went was useless — it’s one form of organizing and it has merits of its own. Certainly there were good speakers at Saturday’s rally besides the VIPs. But I hope that in future, other kinds of actions will be tried too, which give less emphasis to the VIPs and more opportunities for diverse ordinary people to support each other, decide on priorities and start building more freedom.

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