Analysis by Reporting San Diego
Jan 22, 2017 (San Diego) first let me get this out of the way. The #J20 protests in San Diego had a splendid attendance. We had about 1000 people show up in terrible weather. In fact, that was very dangerous weather. The march in the 21st was historic. A massive demonstration in San Diego, for any cause, usually ranges in the thousands, 40,000 plus is unheard off. I know the organizers at the San Diego’s Women’s March, the police, and we in the media were unprepared for this turnout. It was huge.
This is the morning after. What now? On Friday we heard about grassroots organizing. Meetings will be held. People will talk to each other and come with a plan. Moreover, there are already people working on the ground. Whether it is People over Profits, or the San Diego Alliance for Justice, or for that matter the San Diego Green Party. Friday there was a dreadful lack of established politicians. Though the storm might have kept some of them at work, due to storm damage.
On Saturday I heard about voting and registering people to vote from a few of those attending. While voting is important, that cannot be the extent of political engagement. It leads to the demobilization of voters after every election. It also leads, ultimately, to lower voter turnouts. Nor can the extent be sending postcards to Congress. They matter, but they cannot be it.
The response on Friday is exactly what is needed. We need people to link to each other and work at the grassroots.
On Friday activists also touched on something else: Policy. They spoke on how policies can and will affect families. It was not just well-known talking points. They included policies regarding freedom of the press and assembly. One speaker, in particular, spoke of optics at protests and how they are created. This kind of talk was almost absent on Saturday. However, from what we heard, it was a pat on the back for showing up. For the record, we were impressed by the turnout. This speaks of tens of thousands in this town alone, asking, begging, for leadership. They are asking what now?
We did not hear many of the speeches given at freedom plaza, however. But going from the national website, and videos from others there was little discussion on policy. Moreover, there is a reason why I am referencing the monicker used by Occupy San Diego. Why was Occupy attacked mercilessly by the power structure? It was not because they were a bunch of hippies camping in public spaces. It was not because they had become a health risk. Occupy had simply become a threat. It was a large question mark to the status quo. Occupy became a direct challenge to a political system that embraced the top 10 percent, best case while ignoring the needs of the rest of the country.
Successful movements are not made from massive crowds, however historic, showing up for a once over march. Successful movements are not made from common prescriptions, like just registering to vote and showing up on Election Day. Successful campaigns use marches to demonstrate their strength, but if they are to change the course of policy, they also must organize and get involved in the day to day grind of government. Inspiring speeches and massive turnout must include a plan for the day after.
The Friday march in San Diego had that plan. From what we could observe, Saturday’s did not. We expect the future leadership of this resistance to emerge from those millennials who took to the streets on Friday, and not on Saturday. At least to this observer, they are ready to challenge and become a thorn in the side of a system that they see as a problem. They also are not partisan in their criticism. To a larger or lesser extent, they are critical of both parties.
About Occupy. Some of the people who are graduates from Occupy, such as Martha Sullivan and Jeeni Criszenso, are deeply involved in the day to day grind of government. We expect to see Cecille Estelle, and Mark Bartlet in the grind as well. We are seeing a new generation of leaders emerge, and we are happy to document that.
There is another point we want to make. While the march on Saturday included people from all colors and creeds and embraced the issues of immigrants and people of color, it was still comfortable for the rest attending. Some of the actions on the 20th had a very different tone. It was more a tone of defiance.
Nadin Abbott started by covering Occupy San Diego, and has a Masters Degree in History from San Diego State.