Editorial: Protest tactics speak for themselves

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Last week the case against four Black Lives Matter protesters charged with disturbing the peace on Jan. 14 was delayed again, this time until January 2016.

The charges stem from the protestors blocking traffic in Kelley Square for four and a half minutes.

In April, it was announced that City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. and Police Chief Gary Gemme attempted to reach a compromise. As long as the group agreed not to block public streets in the future, the city would not bring charges.

The group rejected the compromise on the premise that agreeing meant yielding their constitutional rights to free speech and peaceful assembly, a claim that seemingly flies in the face of the choice of Kelley Square as the protest point. This is a point that the American Civil Liberties Union recognizes.

Indeed, one of the organizers suggested to MassLive the location was chosen for maximum impact:

“Kelley Square is the heart of the city. … It sparked a conversation that has had to happen. Even a conversation about how angry people are has value.”

Let us compare their actions with those of Susan Serpa and Rich Aucoin.

Serpa and Aucoin are members of Act Now Worcester. The group wanted the City Council to pass a resolution against parts of the National Defense Authorization Act. They were denied this chance because the Council’s Rule 33 forbid it from discussion of matters over which it does not have jurisdiction.

In response, members of Act Now Worcester began appearing at City Council meetings. Every meeting, from Feb. 23 to Oct. 13, members of Act Now would sit silently, in orange jumpsuits and with gags over their mouths, to protest.

Act Now Worcester ceased its protest when Mayor Joseph M. Petty agreed to meet with the group to craft a resolution the council could discuss.

Their silence, it seems, spoke volumes.

The purpose of a protest is not only to make your cause known, but, in the best case, get others to support it.

Over the course of months, every Tuesday night, like clockwork, one could see Serpa or Aucoin preparing to enter the Esther Howland Chamber. They could be seen politely answering questions about who they are and what they were doing. Literature would change hands, sometimes it was a business card and other times a single sheet of paper. Then off they went to protest.

The four Black Lives Matters protesters have long since abdicated the cause they support. Indeed, their energy is now being spent either trying to prove a blockade of Kelley Square is a peaceful assembly, which their supporters would claim, or continuing an exercise in self-aggrandizement, which their detractors would claim.

This is how they’re seen, and it’s a shame. Lost is all discussion of the cause they claim to support. It deserved better.

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