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How To Effectively Demonstrate(or not): A Look at the Tea Party and OWS

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With the Occupy Wall Street protests going strong, and the Tea Party having had much mainstream success so far, I thought it would be interesting to look at what these two groups, so similar while so different, got right , and what they got wrong. Not politically, but organizationally. To do this, I am going to present a list of thinks to do and not do when organizing your protest group.

1: Do have a leadership, and make sure it is a good one.

A quick look at OWS will show why this is so important. Chaos gets news reports, but not the kind you want. If you do not have a leadership, then every person you don't want claiming to be a leader, will. How many interviews have been made with people claiming to be leaders of the movement, who looked like complete asses? Far too many, and to those opposed to OWS, this made for a feeding frenzy. Further, it allowed those who are less than honest to portray any idiot as a leader. OWS does have some organizers(read kinda like leaders, only worse, and they came up with a socalled "manifesto" which is just painful to read. So OWS had the worst of two worlds, little leadership allowing the nuts to claim they ran the asylum, and those who where kinda leaders being idiots.

The Tea Party did little better and suffered from the same types of problems, but they got their **** together faster and actually did put together some leaders who helped give their group a direction.

2: Do have a unified message ready before you protest

Both groups have not done very well with this. When the media reports on a protest, they want to include variety. Showing a ton of signs saying almost the same thing is boring, so at Tea Party rallies the media would show a sign or two protesting taxes and spending, then a couple birther signs, then something racial about Obama, then a couple just plain nuts signs. Since early on the Tea party had no real unified message nor leaders putting this message out, the Tea Party looked to those on the outside like a bunch of nuts. OWS took this same problem, and turned it up to 11. We still do not know what exactly the OWS stands for, just that they are standing loudly. And the longer it takes them to get that message out, the more damage done.

The leaders should have flyers ready for the media, with clear, reasonable, well worded positions. It should also contain a disclaimer that those are the only issues your protest is about, and those protesting or demanding other things are not a part of your actual protest. Ideally, the leadership should also pass these flyers out to the protesters, and stress the importance of message unity. Make people judge you by your message, not the message of the wingnuts who will inevitably show up.

3: Do not let the idiots define you

When some one on the outside of the Tea Party thinks about the Tea Party, they think of people in really stupid outfits with tea bags hanging from their hats. When people on the outside of OWS think of OWS, they think of women flashing their boobs and a bunch of arrests. Neither of these things is a positive, and it is a good example of why you do want a clear leadership. Have some one who can stand up and put out your message who is dressed reasonably. Have that some one telling the crowds to not push the police, and then condemn those arrested(carefully: they are overly enthusiastic supporters who got carried away, but they did break the law and we do not support that, and we do understand the difficult position the police are in here and fully support them in their efforts). Have leaders looking for the worst offenders and condemn them publicly. The Tea Party did a horrible job early on of distancing themselves from racist idiots who would show up to Tea Party rallies. Nobody rational thinks the Tea Party is racist, but by having them there it made those less than honest in presentation spin things very negatively.

4: Do Control the message

This fits under item 2, but the message is so important that this bears its own category. You are demonstrating for a reason. Make that reason known and hammer those reasons in at every chance. Interviews should be constantly steered to those reasons. It should be pointed out that while you appreciate the support of people who are protesting with you but with different reasons, but their reasons are not your own or the demonstration as a whole's. Remind people again and again what the message is. Never forget it, never get sidetracked. Your website should have your message on the front page, your flyers should have your message first. Any signs you pass out should be on message. Look at these two Tea Party sites: http://www.thenationalteapartyfederation.com/, http://www.nationwidechicagoteaparty.com/ . Notice that both have a clear mission statement right up front. Notice how within seconds you know what they stand for. Now look at OWS: http://occupywallst.org/, http://www.adbusters.org/campaigns/occupywallstreet, http://www.occupytogether.org/. Now, based on those top 3 OWS websites, tell me what OWS stands for. Good luck cuz the info is not there. Now, to be fair, these are two groups at different points in their history. The Tea Party has had more time to get their **** together and it did take time. However, just looking at those web pages, which is more effective? The Tea Party Manifesto is in the news now. It is something written by one guy, basically stating what he felt the goals should be. It is underwhelming, not very focused, and contains some flat out stupidity. And it is being presented now as the OWS message by those seeking to attack the OWS, despite the fact that by the few rules the OWS has, it is not their platform. But since they do not have a platform or leadership, who can contradict those claiming it is their platform?

5: Do react and quickly when needed

So, some group of Nazi's has just endorsed your movement. You are now ****ed unless you react and quickly. Get a statement out, "While we appreciate support, our message is not the message of the nazi party, they are not affiliated with us, and we reject what they stand for". Don't spend alot of time on it, but make sure your statement is out there for inclusion in the reporting. This is why you need a clear message and leadership, and this is where OWS is failing.

If you get a lot of people together for a long period of time, or with alot of young people who are angry, or in a crowded area, the potential for clashes with police rise dramatically. It does not matter if you think your people are in the right. Clashes with police are bad PR. In the flyer I told you to pass out to demonstrators, mention at some point that the police have a difficult job(they do), that clashes with police should be avoided at all costs, and stress the importance of peaceful demonstrations. If clashes do happen, you then point to your flyer to the media and that the actions of a few do not represent the whole. During the event, you do not even know for sure what caused the clash. Do not criticize the police nor blame them.

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I could go on and on. It's frustrating seeing OWS repeat some of the same mistakes the Tea Party made. While neither group represents my views, I think political demonstrations are good for the country and I think can be a tool to publicize and promote issues. And yet we spend more time arguing if the Tea Party is racist or OWS is fascist than talking of the issues these people are demonstrating about. it is sad.
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  1. American's Avatar
    Good points, and well written.

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