I have had first hand experience with this type of protest and found myself rather frustrated and upset by people wanting to stay quiet while protesting against SB1070-type laws, “even if people say racist shit to you”. Fuck that. I also heard it when hanging a banner over a bridge with information about the May Day March and my brown comrades said the same thing, we are just as bad as them if we yell back. No, we aren’t.
We stand for justice, for people, we are fighting against exploitation, to free our people. They stand for hate, bigotry, white supremacy. We are not the same.
So why the silent protest? Where did this idea come from? I started thinking about it and thought maybe this tactic was once more militant than it is today, maybe nowadays people just use it to not seem as bad, when once it was used as a mighty tactic. I was right.
I looked up the history of the silent protest and found this article by the New York Times called A History of Making Protest Messages Heard, Silently.
This march took place in 1917 against the Ney York Police and their “question and frisk” policy. It was organized after the race riot in East Saint Louis where “Two shooting episodes in East St. Louis had set off a rampage by whites who swarmed into a black neighborhood, beating, stabbing and hanging blacks. At least 40 black and 8 white people were killed. By some accounts, 6,000 blacks were forced out of their homes.”
“The loud, noisy ones do call attention to themselves,” Professor Kornblum added, “but a silent protest evokes feelings of mourning and loss, a deprivation of rights, people who have lost their voice or withheld their voice. This creates a real effect on the bystander and on the people doing the marching.”
For folks protesting against these heinous crimes against black people, they wanted to show their mourning for their people, show their seriousness. Today this tactic is used to not be as bad as the white, bigots we protest against. I’m not down with that.