As an activist, there are multiple facets to being an active voice in your community rather than just showing up to protests. The smaller ways that this activism often manifests is phone banking, canvassing, and calling representatives.
And although these smaller aspects are just as, if not more, important as the large rallies that gather hundreds upon thousands of people, it's undeniable that these protests do have a large impact on the communities around us. Recently, I had the privilege of attending a pro-choice protest that was held in my town.
The protest lasted for around four hours, gained much media attention, and helped spread awareness about the recent attempts to limit abortion access. I have only been to a handful of protests since becoming politically active and I have learned valuable things from every single one.
At the first protest I ever attended, I met a local Planned Parenthood grassroots organizer who has now become a mentor and friend. I have also met several other community activists who have become friends and collaborators on topics that share an interest in.
The main issues that I have with protests are mostly focused on the tendency to draw anti-protestors which can, and often does, lead to violence. These protests are intended to raise awareness on an issue in a peaceful and respectful manner.
At this protest, in particular, there were certain actions like engaging anti-choice counter-protestors as well as resorting to physical altercations with the officers who were policing the protest. At this protest, I witnessed these things firsthand and have since been educated on how to better encourage people to protest in a peaceful manner.
Having respectful, engaging conversations with people who disagree is one thing. But most often, the people who show up at protests are set enough in their beliefs that rarely will minds be changed on either side.
I had a twenty-minute conversation with a couple who were both vehemently pro-life at this protest and while, I don't mind talking about my views, the conversation was just kept circling the same few points that neither of us was going to budge on.
But this conversation did help to educate that not all pro-choice people come from a pro-choice background and that there are different views within the faith community on the issue of abortion.
Conversations are purposeful, but protests usually aren't the best place to engage with people who completely disagree with you. It is just simply not the best platform for a conversation that doesn't end in heated emotions or possibly violence. The purpose behind a protest is to draw attention to an issue that is prevalent to society.
I am a firm believer in peacefully protesting and walking out activism in my community. I have learned many things from the protests that I have attended and I will continue to attend protests, as they are an important facet to my activism.