Protests Only Work When It Hurts…

It’s funny the things that will come up when you’re in the process of moving. During me and my wife’s latest move from the foothills of North Carolina to the Gulf Coast of Florida, I happened across probably one of the more disappointing moments from this year (at least until possibly the election in November)…

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Now, the seats weren’t fantastic – in fact, they were at the other end of the arena from where the stage was situated. But they were square on with the stage and would have offered a great opportunity to see much of the crowd enjoying the show from Bruce, one of the legendary performers in rock history (I could tell stories about seeing him in 1980 for a six-plus hour show, but we’ll save that for another time). My wife and I were eagerly anticipating the show as it had been many years since either of us had been able to see “The Boss” in action.

Then the North Carolina General Assembly and asswipe Governor Pat McCrory got their panties in a bunch.

In February, the Charlotte City Council passed an ordinance extending protections to the lesbian/bisexual/gay/transgender (LGBT) community. A part of this ordinance – and the issue that sparked the most controversy – was the provision for allowing people to use the restroom of their gender identity, rather than that of whichever sex they were born. In essence, the ordinance allowed those who were in the process of shifting from one sex to another to use the restroom of that other sex (male transgendered individuals could use female restrooms and vice versa).

The response by McCrory and the GOP-dominated North Carolina legislature (which has been gerrymandered to make it virtually impossible for a balanced legislature to occur – witness the THREE TIMES that the federal government has called the state’s legislative districts unconstitutional) was immediate. Convening a special session of the General Assembly (one outside the normal working times of the legislative body), McCrory and his henchmen pushed through HB2, a bill that was so overreaching in its aim it was destined for the “unconstitutional” bin almost from the start.

Not only did that bill immediately set that “all people” had to use the restroom of the birth sex, but it also removed the right for minorities and the LGBT community to sue through the state court system for discrimination. It included a provision that prevented individual cities from enacting their own laws that differentiated from state statutes. With many Democratic representatives protesting by leaving the voting floor, the statute passed through the General Assembly with only about 12 HOURS of overall discussion.

This was the end of March and, within days, the impact was felt. Several local productions in theaters around the Tar Heel State reported that the rights holders to significant stage productions (plays) were pulling their approval for performance over the bill. The streaming provider Hulu pulled the production of a program they had set for airing out of North Carolina over the bill and PayPal suspended expansion of its operations center in the state. This was but the tip of the iceberg, however.

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Many entertainment artists have also pulled out of shows that they were scheduled to perform, including “The Boss,” Pearl Jam, Boston, Bryan Adams, Ani DiFranco, Ringo Starr, Nick Jonas and Demi Lovato and Cirque du Soleil. The real thunder came down, however, over the past couple of months, first with the National Basketball Association’s removal of the 2017 NBA All-Star Game from Charlotte. Then, just yesterday, the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) removed SEVEN championship games or playoff sites from the state, citing the law as the reason. All totaled, the loss of business regarding all of these repercussions could total to as much as half a billion dollars by the year anniversary of HB2’s passage, with the NBA All-Star Game accounting for about $100 million of that total, and could even impact future business in the state.

The reason this came back to me was not only a result of the move. Finding that ticket stub for an unused concert was simply the catalyst for a reply to model Kate Upton’s Twitter hissy fit over athletes not standing for the National Anthem. Of course, over the weekend was the opening weekend of the National Football League season (and the 15th anniversary of 9/11, just coincidentally) and, following in the footsteps of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s continuing protest against inequality in the United States, some players either did not stand for, knelt in protest or displayed the “Black Power” salute as the National Anthem played. This bunched Upton’s panties, who stated, “This is unacceptable. You should be proud to be an American. Especially on 9/11 when we should support each other.”

The continued attention being drawn to what has now become a movement (hey, if a subject catches the nation’s attention for more than two years – yes, it’s been that long since the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, widely considered the spur – it is a movement) is only done when a protest has an impact. Kaepernick has been vocal in the past regarding the issues of black people in the United States and their treatment at the hands of law enforcement, but no one was paying any attention to what he was saying. It wasn’t until his act of defiance of not standing for the National Anthem – and attention was drawn to the fact that he was doing it – that there became a national conversation (admittedly sometimes not about what Kaepernick wanted to talk about, as with Upton’s attempt at using her First Amendment rights by silencing Kaepernick’s, but still there was discussion).

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For a protest to have an impact, there are a couple of things that it should have. It has to have some financial teeth, some fiscal bite, that pushes some to reconsider their positions (it also has to have a side that understands those fiscal implications – apparently North Carolina Republicans are morons if they issue this response). Along with that, it should have some emotional impact on people. There were plenty that were upset over Springsteen’s decision to not perform in North Carolina, just as there are more than likely many upset that Demi Lovato didn’t come to North Carolina or that LeBron James won’t be making an appearance during the NBA All-Star Game in the state. A protest only works when it hurts, either physically or emotionally. That is what makes a protest enact the change that comes about (eventually) with issues.

I’m putting those unused Bruce Springsteen tickets back in the desk as a reminder to myself for a couple of reasons. One, something has to be lost (in some cases) for a protest to have its desired effect, and Two, there is the ability to protest at all levels, from the richest of us all to the poorest. It will be some time before the protests of the actions in North Carolina and the national discussion of inequality are adequately addressed, but hopefully it is sooner than later.

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…But “Black Lives Matter” Isn’t Helping the Situation

There is an old adage, “there are two sides to every story.” I personally have always liked the rock band Extreme’s take with their album III Sides to Every Story. III Sides to Every Story was a concept album (an outstanding album that stretched genres in hard rock) regarding different “sides” to a story that was divided into three sections – “Yours,” “Mine” and “The Truth.” That concept is more realistic than many who divide things into two sections because, regardless of who is telling the story, there is some truth in both sides. That middle ground – “The Truth” or the third side – is 99 times out of 100 the way something occurred.

When it comes to the case of police shootings, especially of unarmed civilians, across the United States, there has been the grassroots growth of a “side” to help tell their story. The loosely affiliated group known as Black Lives Matter has sprung up across the country, trying to take the helm of the protests against the overreach of law enforcement in its actions against minorities. While a coalition such as this is necessary to continue to keep the focus on the actions of law enforcement, Black Lives Matter isn’t helping the situation and, in fact, the situation overall may be better off if they didn’t intercede.

Black Lives Matter actually date back further than the turmoil that first arose in 2014 and truly exploded over the course of 2015. The shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Florida in 2013 – and his subsequent acquittal in a trial in Florida – brought about the usage of the hashtag “#BlackLivesMatter” on Twitter, long before any incidences from the past couple of years. It is only with the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York that the founders of BLM emerged as a nationwide organization. As of today, there are now 23 chapters of BLM, spread across the U. S., Canada and Ghana.

According to their website, BLM is an organization “intended to build connections between Black (sic) people and our allies to fight anti-Black racism, to spark dialogue among Black people and to facilitate the types of connections necessary to encourage social action and engagement.” What you won’t find on this webpage is the one thing that is critical for any organization to have to be successful in their endeavors – leadership on a national level. Without this leadership, the message of BLM can sometimes get lost and, in some cases, the tactics used by those in the organization’s name can be a detriment to the overall cause of the group.

We only have to look back to 2011 to see what happens when a movement initially has a good purpose but gets derailed by the lack of recognizable leadership. In September 2011, protesters took to the grounds of Zuccotti Park in New York City’s Wall Street area to protest against the largesse of the “1%.” What came to be called “Occupy Wall Street” intended to bring attention to several facets of life in today’s world – wage inequality, financial corruption, the other reasons behind the financial collapse that brought the Recession of 2008 to life – but gradually devolved into something that was nowhere near what the original intentions of the group had been.

By the time the protesters and their tent city in Zuccotti Park was busted up in November, there were various fringe elements hanging on the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. This occurred because there was no leadership for the group to issue its thoughts, its beliefs, its coherent goals. Instead of actually having an impact, by the time the Zuccotti Park grounds were cleared, there was little that was actually accomplished by the Occupy Wall Street “movement.”

In many ways, BLM is seemingly on the same path that the OWS movement trod before them. BLM initially had a very solid reason for coming together – the killing of unarmed men (in this case black) by law enforcement under suspicious circumstances – but lacked a national coalition to be able to organize its “chapters” and drive this message home first. As a result of the inability to have a focal point to work from, the individual chapters have gone about pushing the message to the people in all the wrong ways.

One of the most obvious methods of protesting was taken from the old marches from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in blocking roadways while delivering the message through a walking protest. In some areas, however, BLM supporters weren’t just satisfied with getting their message across through a moving march, they decided to lie in the streets of major cities and block traffic, sometimes for hours on end. This method of protest violates one of the major keys of protesting:  don’t offend those whose opinions you’re trying to sway.

This style of protest became even more prevalent during the holidays this year. In Chicago – where there are seriously some issues with the police department – BLM protesters disrupted holiday shopping on Black Friday along the “Magnificent Mile,” the line of high end shops in the Windy City. It even reached the point that the Mall of America and the Minneapolis Airport (a city also protesting a police shooting) was the site of sometimes violent clashes between BLM and law enforcement.

Once you’ve made the point of your protest, then you can let life return to normal for people who had nothing to do with the situation. If you either continue to push your demonstration (look at the two months of OWS and how public opinion changed there) and exceed a reasonable amount of time, you can turn public opinion against your group and, hence, your cause. What was the reason for denying people the ability to shop? To really make them dislike you? That isn’t a desired end for the protests.

The next one was much more sinister in its message. According to several media outlets, marchers who were offered a booth inside the Minnesota State Fair this summer to advocate for their cause refused said location to instead march directly in the street outside the entrance to the carnival. During this march, the BLM banner was flying while the marchers chanted “Pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like bacon.” Law enforcement officials viewed this as a death threat against officers (a reasonable assumption), one that was weakly refuted by BLM “leaders” who said they didn’t hear such words being used (the You Tube links are quite numerous).

Finally, there’s been the methods used by the movement to thrust themselves into the 2016 Presidential race. Through virtually storming several campaign stops – on both the Democratic and Republican sides – the BLM movement has tried to make their cause celebre the focal point of what is a very complex election (even to the point of demanding from each party a Presidential debate on racial justice; both parties declined). Not only have the persons involved with the organization disrupted several speeches from Presidential candidates, they have caused several campaign stops to be closed due to their disruptions.

Once again, with a solid national leadership and some organization, this wouldn’t have to happen. With those simple pieces of structure, there wouldn’t be the turn against BLM that there has been. I personally have several issues that are quite important to me in this campaign (on the federal, state and local levels) – the revamping (training, screening and monitoring) of law enforcement can be done on the state or local levels, not on the federal one.

Now you might say, “Well, you don’t understand, you’re white…” and you would be correct. I don’t understand what it is like to constantly be thought of as breaking the law by simply being a certain ethnicity. I don’t understand what it is like to be viewed with suspicion in virtually every aspect of life because of my skin tone. I do understand, however, that things can be changed through solid leaders and national organization…right now, Black Lives Matter doesn’t have that and they should remove themselves from the equation with law enforcement until there is such organization as mentioned previously to this organization that could do a great deal for life in these United States.

Tough To Get Upset With Ferguson This Time Around

It’s been a year since the stunning shooting of 18-year old Michael Brown by Ferguson, MO, police officer Darren Wilson. A year that has seen not only a grand jury but a federal inquiry decline to indict Brown for the shooting of the young man (who allegedly had stolen cigars from a nearby convenience store, intimidated the owner and then tried to reach in Brown’s patrol car – for what reason nobody seems to know – before the shooting) while riots tore up the city. Since then, we’ve had much more legitimate complaints regarding law enforcement treatment of blacks in areas such as Baltimore and Charleston, which have pushed Brown’s case and its myriad of grey areas into the shadows.

With the anniversary of the shooting, there have come new peaceful protests and calls for changes within the system, not only in Missouri but also in the United States as a whole. For the most part, these have been orderly situations where the protestors have been able to put their message out there for the people to hear and, for the most part, law enforcement has been respectful of these protests. That seemed to change on Monday night, however.

On Monday night, law enforcement contends they were the targets of a shooter/shooters among a crowd of people who were “peacefully” protesting at night, never a good recipe for anything. As you can tell from the video released by the Ferguson Police Department, it does appear that one person may have had a weapon in their hand and may have been trying to blend with the crowd to try to get away from the police.

Then there was this situation, allegedly taped yesterday showing a “peaceful” protest blocking one of the thoroughfares in Ferguson. The protest makes its point – while blocking those that might have to get to jobs or, perhaps worse yet, have an emergency they have to attend to – while the police make their point by telling the protesters they have to move out of the road because they are impeding traffic (a misdemeanor offense). The idiot at the end gets what he deserves for not listening to the officers.

Finally, we have the Oath Keepers, those vaunted individuals who have deemed themselves the righteous protector of all and enforcer of laws where there are none. This gang – and that is what it is, a gang – is being allowed to walk the streets in Missouri armed (as is permissible by law) but the reciprocity isn’t being extended to those that march for the other side. They are still walking the streets of Ferguson today, not doing anything to calm the situation but inflaming it even more.

The problem with these incidences is that they aren’t doing anything to further either the cause of racial equality, equal treatment by police or improving the situation for anyone in such straits. All they seem to be doing is continually pulling the scab off an already sore wound, never letting it heal fully and never providing it the medications that are needed for it to do just that. By continuing to flood the streets, it makes it tough for anyone to get upset with what is going on in Ferguson this time.

The peaceful protests were played out the first time around, soon after Brown was shot and then again after the Grand Jury refused to indict Wilson on any charges. The anniversary does bring a moment to remember the situation, not a weekend of protests that now has dragged on into the following week. For those who protested over the weekend, it seems as if they were organic and looking to effect change in their community; in those that have gone on since then, it seems they have been spearheaded by those looking to commit crime or, in the case of the Oath Keepers, someone looking to do some human target practice.

In the Brown case, it was shown that Brown at least violated Wilson’s police vehicle (sure, Wilson could have planted that evidence, but I don’t think Barney Fife had the ability to think that far ahead in the situation) and, after Wilson pursued him, at least turned around to confront Wilson. This is a fact from the autopsy. While Brown can be mourned for his death, he cannot be celebrated as a martyr for a cause (that should be left to Walter Scott, the man needlessly gunned down in North Charleston). The peaceful protestors should, at the minimum, disavow those causing the problems, which I haven’t heard.

Law enforcement also has their burden to bear in this situation. They can admit to the long line of actions they used to put down certain races in the Ferguson area (and many others) and commit themselves to eradicating the problems from their divisions. They can also order the Oath Keepers to return to whatever militia they scurried out from under as they are simply causing more problems than their presence is worth.

Maybe come next August, the remembrances will be smaller but the message will resonate larger. Maybe next year there won’t be the need for arrests or weapons to be used. Maybe next year the Oath Keepers will keep their asses at home instead of flouting a questionable message and inflaming the tensions in an already boiling cauldron. For this year, however, the message has been bastardized and no one is listening.