Monday, September 9, 2013

Advice on Creating Safe(r) Spaces at Political Events

Saturday I hosted a rally in Charlotte opposing US military intervention in Syria. Everything was going great . . . until some anti-choice "activists" decided to crash the party.

The first thing I noticed was this dude in a "Ron Paul 2016" t-shirt and a fedora going around talking with people and filming them (he struck me as a total Men's Rights Advocate, but I chastised myself for jumping to conclusions).  There were also two women arrived holding signs saying, "73 Million Babies Killed Since 1973" and "Saline Abortion is Chemical Warfare". :Eye roll:

One of the other attendees was this inspiring young woman (let's call her M) who volunteers with Planned Parenthood, and she and I confronted the anti-choicers and asked them to leave. They, of course, refused and said they had the right to protest, so I began blocking their signs with my own. Unfortunately, the other protesters either backed the anti-choicers right to protest or remained neutral. Then, the MRA dude who turned out to be pro-life (what a surprise!) came over and started defending them. When M jumped into the argument, he started interviewing her on camera and even went so far as to get in the shot with her, put his arm around her and said, "Can't we all come together to protest the war?"

After that, we both gave up trying to reason with them. I said to M that that guy looked like a total MRA, and she agreed. I then told some friends what happened and tried to recruit them in helping oust the anti-choicers, but they told me just to ignore them to avoid escalating the situation. When I looked around, M and her two friends had left. I later asked the protesters who supported the anti-choicers why they had done that, and they said, "Sometimes you have to come together with people you dislike to form a coalition, and you cannot take sides on divisive issues."

This has shown me, clearly and incontrovertibly, the futility of pursuing a "big-tent" strategy. If you ignore oppression, you end up taking the side of the oppressor. If I have to chose, I would much rather have M on my side than that creepy MRA dude and those anti-women women!

Philip Woods operates Charlotte Animal Rights in North Carolina and is in the process of founding W.A.K.E.U.P: War And Kyriarchy: Educate, Unite, Prevent to combat entrenched oppressions in the antiwar movement.