Peaceable assembly for the redress of grievances is our inalienable right; 2A activists know how to do that right right.
The grassroots activists who work locally to protect and promote pro-gun legislation have a great deal of experience in getting our message across safely and effectively, frequently against steep odds. That means that we Second Amendment activists have some excellent advice for anyone who is seeking to peaceably assemble to petition to Government for a redress of grievances. After all, we’re used to having to get our message across despite a generally hostile media reception and local governments that aren’t always friendly. So we’ve developed three strategies to ensure our activism–our protests and public demonstrations–are helpful to our cause, not detrimental.
1. Police Yourself
The first thing you must do to ensure your protests and demonstrations are effective is to police your own ranks. Every time a popular movement starts to gain steam, outside interests will take note and start thinking of ways to piggyback their goals onto your group. So if you started with a group of 30 guys from the neighborhood two weeks ago, and now there’s five guys you never met before trying to tell your group that throwing Molotov cocktails is a really great way to get media attention? Yeah, maybe kick them out of the group.
In addition to keeping a weather eye out for those who have their own agendas–which may run counter to yours–you should be careful about optics. Before your protest, ask everyone who means to be there to dress and groom themselves as if they were going to be on the 5:00 news. That’s because, as we 2A activists have learned, you can have 200 open-carry protesters wearing their guns over business attire…but if you have ONE IDIOT rocking an offensive t-shirt and an IQ to match his shoe size, that’s who the news is going to interview and that is a promise.
2. Don’t Give Them a Reason
If you’re concerned that your peaceful assembly to petition for redress of grievances might meet a hostile reception, the most important thing to do is to ensure that you don’t leave any opening for those who oppose you to either halt or discredit your activism. That means that you must carefully review the local laws both about how a peaceable demonstration is expected to go, and about the issue you’re protesting. For example, I’ll refer back to open-carry protesting. Local laws about OC can vary wildly; in some states, “covering” your OC gun (say, by putting a jacket on when it gets chilly) can cause you legal problems. So ahead of the protest, Open-Carry organizers will make sure that everybody in the crowd knows to keep their sidearms visible but holstered.
Speaking of “don’t give them a reason,” that includes your protesters’ behavior once the demonstration begins. Second Amendment activists are used to being taunted and called murderers (among other, less printable epithets) by the “other side” during our demonstrations. The best advice is to ignore the counterprotesters as much as possible and to not engage with them. Once again, you can have 200 people behaving perfectly but if ONE MORON decides to get into it with a hostile spectator, that’s what’s going to make the news and that is a promise.
3. Stay On-Message and Stay Peaceful
Staying on-message is both critical and difficult. That’s because, as your cause gathers momentum, you’re adding people who care about your cause…and also these 10 causes over here. The only problem is that although you might think those 10 causes relate to your primary one, the public probably doesn’t. Don’t let “intersectionalism” muddy the waters of what it is your movement is trying to achieve. That’s tough because you’re hoping to get as many people out on the streets holding signs as you can, but unless those signs are advancing your cause, they’re probably hurting it.
And finally–even though we shouldn’t have to say this–you must remain peaceful under all circumstances. That’s because you may be facing a hostile news media that will do everything in its power to paint you as violent. For example, remember those “Release the Quarantine” protests I wrote about three short weeks ago? (The ones where I sort of implied that openly carrying during a protest that wasn’t about open carry was maybe not the best idea?) There wasn’t a single violent incident at any of them, but the news media did their best to paint the protesters as such anyway.
That means that, once again, it’s important that any given protest organizer emphasize to the individuals there that no violence of any kind will be tolerated regardless of provocation. There may very well be people in the opposition whose specific job it is to provoke your demonstrators verbally in hopes of getting a violent response that they can then use to paint your movement as violent and anti-social. If your demonstrators couldn’t get through a game of The Dozens without exploding, they should stay home.
I’m not saying that the world of Second Amendment activism is perfect, or that we get it right all of the time. What I am saying, however, is that over the last 30 years we have been slowly, incrementally expanding gun rights all across the country…and knowing how to effectively demonstrate is a key part of that strategy.
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