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GETTING A REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROTEST ACTION GOING IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD
Many people around New Jersey have done a great job in putting some anti-war muscle into the Eve of Christmas - Eve of War events - congratulations are due to all of us in making the last few days - days of heightened opposition against the war around the state of New Jersey. The effort generated a higher number of news articles about the regularly scheduled events that were already in place. There were several new activities and at least some of those new locations are either already planning or in the discussion stages of making those towns sites for more ongoing regularly scheduled events. Among some of the regularly scheduled events, there was a higher degree of mobilization for the events with many more participants than usual.
There also have been some recent events that were not directly linked to the Eve events in places such as Red Bank that did indeed show a growing local presence of our anti-war forces.
While there has been no rest for the weary in that we came off the December 7 Peace Train and March and Rally in Newark and jumped right into the Eve of Christmas - Eve of War events. We need to keep jumping into an even greater escalation and intensification of our local presence in the coming weeks as the news media will continue to remind us each and every day that we are now in the "countdown to war."
At this point, I urge those groups and individuals that staged a activity in their town for the first time (or first time in a while) to assess their ability to continue to hold such events on a weekly basis.
Weekly actions are important in campus communities as well - pick a location that is central - at a major bus stop or cafeteria where there are hundreds of students passing through. A noon or dinner timeframe is ideal.
The following are suggestions:
1. Pick a time and place where there is visibility, hopefully where you can pass fliers and engage passers by in conversation. Regularly contact the press.
2. Use a sign up sheet at the events. Ask folks to sign up even if you already have their contact information. That way you can assess who are the more frequent attendees, information that could prove helpful as you continue to organize. That might not seem necessary given that some of the actions are quite small. However, our goal must be to organize larger and larger groups to participate. Use the sign up as means for contacting participants.
3. Organize the events. Each local group should identify what other constituencies in the neighborhood are potentially receptive. A letter should be drafted and sent to them. Follow up phone calls and possibly meetings over coffee or attendance of the group's meetings to talk about the events. Groups that should be approached are social concerns groups of churches, synagogues and mosques, union locals, civic, civil rights, human rights, etc. groups, any local left political organizations, campus activist organizations that are nearby, etc. Use your imagination and come up with a plan to bring these forces in as much as possible.
4. Call down the list of participants one or two nights before each event. Split the calls if need be. Caller job can be rotated if need be. You need only spend a couple of minutes with each person.
5. Outreach to high schools. A means needs to be developed to organize opposition within the high schools. There are several avenues to approach - children of our constituents, direct approach to superintendent and school board asking for same access as recruiters have, leafleting outside the schools, ads in school newsletters, etc.
6. Plan the presentation each week to participants and to the public. Vary the leaflet - date it - folks might begin looking forward to your message. Update participants as to what is going on with the war and ongoing efforts against it.
7. Once a month, make an effort to emphasize the activity - an extra push to draw more people - maybe a march - a more vocal presence, etc.
8. Working with the Peace Action groups and other groups that have local constituencies, call up local members and supporters and invite their participation. Urge all that can to bring the whole family.
9. Use http://NoWarNJ.org . Visit the resource page to see if there are any other anti-war organizers in your neighborhood to help out. Put your event up at the website.
10. Convergence - Make agreements with other progressive groups that are organizing in your area that your folks will attend their events if their folks attend yours. Explore the idea of unifying messages.
11. Set goals. If you regularly draw 5 people, pick a week in which you are going to try to draw 10. Set a goal that you will maintain a certain number. You might not always reach your goals - at least you will have something to work toward.
As for those who have yet to get something going in your neighborhood, it is not too hard to get something going and it is ok to start small. Every journey starts with a single step.
There are many other ways we can build the participant presence into the hundreds. I am sure that you have ideas of your own. Feel free to write back and share with us what you have tried and works and does not work.
Can we stop the next major escalation of war on Iraq? You bet we can! Are we going to do it? It all depends on what we do and don't do in the coming weeks.
Let's get it on now!
- Bob Witanek