By: Jonathan C. Lamanthia
Last Tuesday, May the First, I expected to enter the Quad to the sounds of angry protesters – maybe not hundreds of them, but at least a couple. If you pay attention to signs and announcements posted about campus, you too may have expected such a scene.
After all, a group of fed-up students had plastered high-traffic zones with signs imploring students to join in a “May Day General Strike.” The group even posted a huge sign at the entrance of Gaige Hall which was readable from at least 200 feet all around.
But alas, the demonstration I envisioned never materialized. What exactly did become of the general strike?
That’s a good question – a question that The Anchor actually tried, as any good school newspaper could, to answer.
Now here’s where things get a bit weird. One would think that a protest group with the intent of toppling some of the most powerful institutions on campus would crave media attention. This is one of the ways a social movement can grow. Look at the help the Tea Party received when Fox News, among others, began reporting on the group day after day. And it’s not as though the group was hiding – they had a Facebook presence and, as mentioned above, a strong “paper presence” around campus. But despite their efforts to get out the word, they seemed to have no problem kicking one of this newspaper’s editors out of their meeting.
When I heard this, I was floored. I couldn’t believe it.
Because the May Day group and Occupy share a great many similarities, I tried to imagine Occupiers chasing a team of genuinely interested reporters, which without question our report was, away from their encampments, but for the life of me, I couldn’t. You probably can’t, either, because Occupy was so starved for media attention.
That being the case, one would think that the May Day group would have welcomed in our reporter with open arms. The fact that they didn’t, though, reveals something of greater importance.
It seems that the approach taken by the group was not visible enough. On the whole, the group is far too closed off and averse to risk. But without risk and interaction with the greater public, their message will die.
So what are they doing wrong?
They were not visible enough.
Why a group seeking to shut down campus would hold themselves up in an inconspicuous room is a mystery to me. It’s not as though they couldn’t have brought their message to the Quad, or the Mt. Pleasant and Fruit Hill Ave. gates. They could have created loud signs and colorful protest cries. It’s not as though we haven’t had other groups take similar approaches.
Or, if their intent was to actually shut down the campus, as is the purpose of a student strike, maybe they should have created picket lines at the entrances to buildings like the Student Union or Adams Library. Civil rights activists staged sit-ins at lunch counters and broke practically every societal convention in the book, and in many cases, this was done at a great price. They disturbed people. They made people think by making them feel uncomfortable.
This is not something the strike group accomplished.
Now to be honest, I didn’t really think the protest would go anywhere. I don’t think RIC has the civic capital in its student population to support the type of protest the group was saying they wanted.
But I did expect a little more gusto on part of the organizers. Frankly, I was a bit disappointed.