Protesting has become a circus of costumes and internet memes.

Brandon Meawasige

Assistant Sports Editor

 

On March 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered what would become one of the most recognizable and influential speeches in U.S. history to a peacefully protesting crowd who consumed the capital area of Washington. King’s efforts, joined by the quarter of a million Americans who marched with him that day, precipitated a social change of the kind that may never be seen again.

In Egypt this past year, millions of citizens organized in the country’s streets to protest a government, eventually toppling the regime of Hosni Mubarak with their crusade. Similar protests in Libya generated such a buzz globally that a civil war involving numerous foreign participants, including NATO, eventually ended the decades-long rule of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

What these protests have in common is that each achieved social or political change, proving that the voice of the people is more powerful than any institution, including government. That is, of course, unless that voice is stifled by abuse.

Unfortunately, examples of abuse are more prevalent than of action in North America today. Protesters seem to take to the streets in the name of any cause possible. If one piece of knowledge could be gleaned from the G20 summit in Toronto, for example, it is that, if given a chance, the wayward citizen will find others like them to disturb the peace.

Perhaps that is too critical, if that example is taken alone. Less than a year later in Vancouver, a vast group of these “activists” turned Robson Street into a war zone. Was this to raise awareness for some human rights initiative, or to call for action in the fight against drugs in the city’s lower east side? Not quite.

Garnering international attention in the process, these idiots were rioting after the heartbreaking loss of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks.

It is abuse of the human voice as seen in Toronto and Vancouver that deteriorates the power of protest when it is actually necessary.

In the “Occupy Wall Street” movement in New York City, fighting against the irresponsible banking practices of corporate America has been a worthy cause. From the beginning, the movement carried with it the strength and validity to at the very least catch the attention of corner-office CEOs.

Unfortunately, the “Occupy Wall Street” movement was used all over and soon became the “Occupy Any and Everything in Sight (For Whatever Reason We Can Come Up With) Movement.” Protests began in numerous other big North American cities, including Toronto, which is now notorious for its overly vocal population.

Masquerading as a worthy cause, downtown Toronto’s “Occupy Bay Street” movement invited an influx of protestors to the city centre. Among the notable causes present on the streets was a young man holding a sign that said, “Capitalism is the enemy,” while listening to his iPod.

Granted, the majority of the movement is a strong and worthwhile protest. However, the bandwagon or tag-along participants give the entire cause a bad name.

Along with the Occupy Toronto movement came a variety of other causes and protestors who felt this was a great opportunity to speak out and be heard.

The result has not been a quarter of a million people united under the banner of rights and freedoms, nor has it been to end the government of one of the world’s most oh-so oppressive democracies. Rather, on a daily basis, protests of all shapes, sizes and subject matter litter Dundas Square, Queen’s Park and a plethora of other venues.

People have taken these protests for granted in the city. No longer intrigued by the force of social action, citizens of Toronto walk by the demonstrations paying little or no attention to the cause. It’s too bad that, at the centre of all this hoopla, there are real issues that need to be addressed.

The increasing abuse of the right to protest will eventually wear it down, rendering it useless. Hopefully it doesn’t get to the point where the only thing the protester is occupying is space.

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