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Most Embarassing Protest
March 31, 2009 4:26 PM   Subscribe

Last month's food court occupation at NYU's Kimmel Center cafeteria, live-blogged here, has produced what is possibly the most embarassing protest video ever.

Video summarized by the following exchange:
Police: Son, there is no 'cooperation' -- you need to just leave.
Student: Ok, um, we need to democratically decide on that. ... We would like to democratically decide in a consensus area. ... We need to look at the relationship here, the power hierarchy here. ... We need to decide whether we're going to cooperate with their demand. ... guys, we need to talk to each other ... ok, who wants to be facilitator? who can facilitate at this point?
posted by jsonic (135 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
I have friends who still think this protest was a good idea. Somewhere along the line ideology has become disconnected from reality.
posted by shii at 4:34 PM on March 31, 2009


If Saul Alinsky were alive today, he'd have passed tear gas around to the cops and led the billyclub charge.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:34 PM on March 31, 2009 [13 favorites]


Wasn't there an AskMe recently about what the correct word was for being embarrassed for someone else?
posted by Bookhouse at 4:36 PM on March 31, 2009 [5 favorites]


I lived with a bunch of kids in NYC who were like this (hell, they were probably involved in this protest). Let me tell you, ordering take-out was a huge ordeal.
posted by bradbane at 4:36 PM on March 31, 2009 [11 favorites]


Please, please somebody summarize this for us non-New Yorkers who don't want to read through blogs and live blogs with no real background. Or just tell me if this was something that mattered, or just something.
posted by Science! at 4:41 PM on March 31, 2009 [9 favorites]


The virtues and detriments of corporate water.

Watching this makes me sad.
posted by orville sash at 4:41 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm just going to hang out here in the thread flashing a pair of peace signs.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:42 PM on March 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


Don't apply a device of force on me bro!
posted by PenDevil at 4:44 PM on March 31, 2009 [7 favorites]


Rebels without a clue.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:44 PM on March 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oh, no, Science!, you have to read through the liveblog in the original post.
It's comedy gold.
Lewis continued, “We want to be democratic participants in this institution of learning…We decided to physically reclaim the space, to take back the space.” She also stressed that they were doing this in solidarity with the Palestinians in the Gaza strip.
She told me that the “expect to have all [their] demands met.” She thinks they are “completely reasonable” and “what [they] believe [they] deserve.”
Well then.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:45 PM on March 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


Forget it. You don't need to summarize anything, I stopped caring.
posted by Science! at 4:45 PM on March 31, 2009 [6 favorites]




Please, please somebody summarize this for us non-New Yorkers who don't want to read through blogs and live blogs with no real background.

You've seen the constitutional peasant bit from Holy Grail? Make the peasant less angry, more Alan Alda, and much more high and you've got this.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:49 PM on March 31, 2009 [6 favorites]


It's like a meeting of BPD patients.
posted by billysumday at 4:51 PM on March 31, 2009


"RIOT! RIOT! RIOT! RIOT! RIOT!"

Bizarre.
posted by cortex at 4:51 PM on March 31, 2009


Rebels without a clue.

who needs clues with all those macbooks?
posted by mannequito at 4:51 PM on March 31, 2009


Talk about passion! These kids really stuck it to the man.
posted by dibblda at 4:52 PM on March 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


"I don't think they want water bottles, they probably drink corporate water..."
posted by cortex at 4:53 PM on March 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


b) A reassessment of the recently lifted of the ban on Coca Cola products.

Because we're all about liberating individuals to make their own choices. So we have to keep preventing them from using the food court Coke machine.

No, wait a minute...
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:54 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bookhouse: I believe the term is hathos
posted by leotrotsky at 4:54 PM on March 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


ROU_Xenophobe: "Please, please somebody summarize this for us non-New Yorkers who don't want to read through blogs and live blogs with no real background.

You've seen the constitutional peasant bit from Holy Grail? Make the peasant less angry, more Alan Alda, and much more high and you've got this.
"

I recently rewatched that movie, and I can absolutely picture the scene you describe. Thank you.
posted by Science! at 4:54 PM on March 31, 2009


Best bit is when he mentions that the cops drink "corporate water" before doing an inventory on a bunch of Macbooks.
posted by PenDevil at 4:54 PM on March 31, 2009 [18 favorites]


ugh... somehow I knew when I clicked that link I'd see white folk sporting both dreadlocks and keffiyehs.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 4:55 PM on March 31, 2009 [12 favorites]


Brutality! Brutality!

Apparently, the definition of "brutality" now includes "climbs over ineffectively placed obstacle without actually touching anyone when we said we were 'on base.'" "While also wearing deoderant."

I weep for the future.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:57 PM on March 31, 2009 [8 favorites]


As an NYU alumnus and current NYU law student, I commend the university and John Sexton for showing incredible reserve and skill in dealing with these fuckwits. They did an excellent job of taking the piss out of these kids, essentially refusing to admit that there was even an adversarial stance being taken (I'm pretty sure the university fed them while they were there, even going so far as to provide a fucking vegan meal option) and astutely banking on the fact that they were morons with no real agenda who would eventually flame out in spectacular and embarrassing fashion.
posted by saladin at 4:57 PM on March 31, 2009 [11 favorites]


best line: "you have to use earmuffs"
posted by jclovebrew at 4:58 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here are their demands.

Personal highlights:

* A Socially Responsible Finance Committee that will immediately investigate war profiteers and the lifting of the Coke ban.
* Annual scholarships be provided for thirteen Palestinian students.
* That the university donates all excess supplies and materials in an effort to rebuild the University of Gaza.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:59 PM on March 31, 2009


Summary of actions: No arrests, and no TBNYU! demands met.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:01 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


"They're not letting four of us to consensus!"
posted by foodgeek at 5:04 PM on March 31, 2009


There's something happening here…
what it is, ain't exactly clear.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:08 PM on March 31, 2009 [27 favorites]


Filthy Light Thief, don't forget the demand that tops their list: amnesty for themselves.

I had to preview this comment like 5 times because the concept of "amnesty for themselves" is so foreign that it seem grammatically wrong.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 5:10 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


"With this, I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire."
"We shall overcome."
"We're here, we're queer, get used to it."
"TBNYU! revised their 'non-violence/no property destruction' statement."

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?
Did you guess which thing was not like the others?
Did you guess which thing just doesn't belong?
If you guessed this one is not like the others,
Then you're absolutely ... right!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:10 PM on March 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


I feel like I'm back at Earlham.

" Fight, Fight, Inner Light!
Kill, Quakers, Kill!
Knock 'em Down, Beat 'em Senseless!
Do It 'til We Reach Consensus! "
posted by HopperFan at 5:12 PM on March 31, 2009 [7 favorites]


I've only read the comments in this thread, but I need a beer already.
posted by sciurus at 5:19 PM on March 31, 2009


We passed by these idiots on the way to a buddy's Stern social event (NYU business school). The kids outside were screaming "FUCK THE MEDIA!!!" for about 5 minutes as we passed by. I have no regret telling them to get a job.
posted by slapshot57 at 5:19 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I couldn't make it past 1:26.

But let's be honest. Like we never did anything callow or pretentious at that age?
posted by Joe Beese at 5:20 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Protests have come a long, sad way in the last 40 years.
posted by echo target at 5:21 PM on March 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


I was callow and pretentious, sure, but I think I mostly made callow and pretentious mixtapes. Nobody seemed to mind too much.
posted by echo target at 5:22 PM on March 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


One of my good friends from Hampshire College was one of the last people left in the occupation, and you can see her in that video, holding up peace signs with her hands. I don't know what the occupation accomplished, finally, but some of the demands seemed reasonable. I don't see anything wrong with "annual reporting of the university’s operating budget, expenditures and endowment."

A similar list of demands surfaced during my time at Hampshire, with a more subaltern recognition (queer etc) than economic rights bent, and, like the NYU one, it threw in some Palestine stuff for good measure. I don't have anything against making those demands, but I could never understand the connection between something like divestment and, say, hiring more gender studies professors.

I don't really know to what extent negotiation occurred between the NYU students and the administration, but their sign "This is what democracy looks like!" depresses me. Hampshire students were quite undemocratic and obstinate about their demands. Likewise, I'm pretty sure democracy looks like something other than holing yourself up in a cafeteria. The eagerness to then advertise what you are doing as democratic seems to me to be either unhelpful or vacuous.
posted by Dia Nomou Nomo Apethanon at 5:23 PM on March 31, 2009 [5 favorites]


Ah, NYU, you make other 30k plus a year trustafarian liberal arts fuckup-warehouse schools look like the Viet Cong made a baby with Al Qaeda and sent that baby to summer camp with the fucking Shining Path.
posted by Divine_Wino at 5:24 PM on March 31, 2009 [16 favorites]


I bet the students are really sad that there was no brutality. I bet they were really hoping for some brutality.
posted by ColdChef at 5:26 PM on March 31, 2009 [8 favorites]


"You're on camera! You're on camera!" Like Allen Funt, but funnier.
posted by ColdChef at 5:28 PM on March 31, 2009


Meanwhile in London the biggest security operation since WW2 is underway to keep a lid on the G20 protests.

Regarding the NYU kids: it's very easy to slag them for being clueless morons, but I look at it this way: they're learning how to attempt something (protest) on their own, and while it's certainly embarrassing (the word has two r's, btw), I tend to want to cut them at least some small degree of slack...after all, maybe in a few years when they've figured out a better way to channel and target their anger, the world will actually need them. Stranger things have happened.
posted by ornate insect at 5:28 PM on March 31, 2009 [16 favorites]


MetaFilter: You have to pretend you can't hear us.
posted by ColdChef at 5:30 PM on March 31, 2009 [5 favorites]


ColdChef: I'm a little sad there was no brutality.
posted by aubilenon at 5:30 PM on March 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


I admit it. I did. But still, this is funny.
posted by MarshallPoe at 5:31 PM on March 31, 2009


it's very easy to slag them for being clueless morons, but I look at it this way: they're learning how to attempt something (protest) on their own, and while it's certainly embarrassing (the word has two r's, btw), I tend to want to cut them at least some small degree of slack...after all, maybe in a few years when they've figured out a better way to channel and target their anger, the world will actually need them. Stranger things have happened.

I do have to say that I know a NYU grad who is one of the most focused, practical, selfless activists I have ever met, of course her efforts are tempered by all of these seldom-washed weekend dumpster-divers, but fair is fair.
posted by Divine_Wino at 5:35 PM on March 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


People who crave this kind of strife need to go camping more often.
posted by The White Hat at 5:35 PM on March 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


NYU sounds like it's become a real zoo.

What impressed me most about their list of demands was what an incoherent mix they ended up with. There's no overall theme; they just stuck in every fashionable radical-leftist cause celebre anyone could think of. That seems to be what results when you consensus under the control of a weak facilitator, or something like that.

"A Socially Responsible Finance Committee that will immediately investigate war profiteers and the lifting of the Coke ban."

They can't even stay coherent within a single demand.

I wonder why they left out "Free Mumia!"
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:37 PM on March 31, 2009 [8 favorites]


They couldn't pronounce it.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:38 PM on March 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


(I'm pretty sure the university fed them while they were there, even going so far as to provide a fucking vegan meal option)

Yep. You're right.
"Thankfully for Charlie, food finally arrived at around 2.20PM (though sadly vegan)."
posted by ericb at 5:43 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's breathtaking to see a bunch of kids passionately undermining popular support for whatever the hell their cause is.
posted by mullingitover at 5:48 PM on March 31, 2009 [13 favorites]


Free Mumia

with purchase of a mumia of equal or greater value
posted by dersins at 5:48 PM on March 31, 2009 [41 favorites]


"There's something happening here…
what it is, ain't exactly clear."

wow..

I watched enough of that video to know it was pretty misguided and probably meaningless...then..i came Civil_Disobedient's (how ironic) quote.. and flashed back to the 70's and the student riots in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti... (U of M and EMU)

now I have to go dig up those 35 mm slides I have...

But, we were just protesting the war and the deaths at Kent State......
posted by HuronBob at 5:49 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't see anything wrong with "annual reporting of the university’s operating budget, expenditures and endowment."

It's a private university. One of the freedoms we enjoy is the freedom to say "beat it, buster" when it comes to revealing private matters.

Now, some might say, "Yeah, but I'm paying tuition, so I have a right to XYZ."

And I'd say, "If you had a restaurant, and I was your customer, how'd you feel if I said, 'I demand the right to look into your cash register every day, and if I can't, I'll shut this mother down!'"

Now, if this were a publicly funded state school? Go ahead, shut the fucker down. Although I might suggest agitating for sunshine laws instead of going after the dorm room cafeteria...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:50 PM on March 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


At first I thought this FPP was about NYU students protesting Jimmy Kimmel and Sarah Silverman breaking up, again!
posted by ericb at 5:51 PM on March 31, 2009


Obviously Coke is a war profiteer, that needs the valuable NYU quarters to bankroll their evil empire abroad <>
posted by nomisxid at 5:51 PM on March 31, 2009


I liked the part where he was trying to call his friend outside, so that they could get a group together to have a vote on starting a democratic process to establish a consensus or whatever it was. And his friend is about 10 feet away from him and answers back with a megaphone.
posted by chococat at 5:53 PM on March 31, 2009 [7 favorites]


What a bunch of assholes. Pepper spray has a purpose and this is it.
posted by a3matrix at 6:05 PM on March 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hungry crowds began gathering outside Kimmel around noon. No quesadillas . . .

Oh the humanity!
posted by nola at 6:06 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can understand all the people here who wish it had ended violently, but I'm glad it did not. If they had managed to provoke violence from the authorities, it would have reinforced their pretentious feeling of self-importance and convinced them that they had done something worthwhile.

As it is, they just look like idiots, and I think they know it. The whole thing ended up being an embarrassing fiasco for the protesters -- and maybe, just maybe, the people involved will learn something from that. (We can hope, anyway.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:13 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Kids nowadays are so worthless. In my day, we didn't have time to protest because we were too busy streaking.
posted by digsrus at 6:13 PM on March 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


after all, maybe in a few years when they've figured out a better way to channel and target their anger, the world will actually need them.

You're probably right, I'm sure there are cafeterias around the globe desperately in need of liberation in the name of Coke free democracy.
posted by MikeMc at 6:14 PM on March 31, 2009


Re: The Coke Ban, many students at NYU have bought into the Killer Coke movement. More info here.
posted by Bookhouse at 6:17 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wonder why they left out "Free Mumia!"

Back in my more political days in the Fall of 2004, I attended one of Michael Moore's speaking events at Temple University. The man was on message the whole time, and when a couple students stood up with a big "Free Mumia" sign, he turned to them and said something to the effect of "Mumia will have his day, but tonight we're talking about George Bush." The kids sat down and didn't raise a fuss for the rest of the evening.

Fast-forward to the 2005 anti-war demonstrations in DC. Walking through it with my friends and serving as more of a tour guide than a dissident, I noticed that we were surrounded by no fewer than four different causes: Socialists, Animal Rights Activists, Fair Trade Supporters, and a whole cadre of LGBT demonstrators. They were all carrying their respective banners with their respective messages and shouting their respective slogans, but not a single unified word on the war. Then a small marching band came through dressed in green tights. I don't even know if they had a message.

Third wave / identity politics did a lot for their constituent groups, but it all happened at the cost of a unified message. Maybe my hindsight is clouded, but looking back at historical strikes and protests, the messages were clear: "give us our bonuses, we want civil rights, get us out of Vietnam." Not today, and perhaps no longer. Between identity politics and internet organizing of extremely small niche groups, I think that the era of unified mass protest is over.

I don't think I'm going to miss it, though. The internet has leveled the playing field and provided new opportunities for political action that trump the influence of protests on a per capita basis. People used to protest because they didn't have a voice. Now that everyone has a voice, I think the protest has gone the way of the dodo.
posted by The White Hat at 6:25 PM on March 31, 2009 [6 favorites]


What is strange about watching this is knowing how different this kind of stunt would play out anywere else. That one big cop understood; the kid with the vid cam was talking about "Ok we're here in this room, we're welcoming a discussion and dialog . . .and we will not cooperate with you . . .we need to use a consensus procese to move forward . . ."

The big cop: "Son, there's no cooperation. You just . . . yous guys just need to leave"

The look on his face is one of utter confused incredulity. You just know he is thinking why aren't we kicking these kids in the head like we do everybody else that does shit like this?

I mean that's what would happen if a bunch of kids barricaded a Waffle House and started making demands about Coke products. I'm not kidding, there would be no talking about demands, no talking just tear gas and nightsticks. It's really kind of funny, no?
posted by nola at 6:35 PM on March 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


I think that the era of unified mass protest is over.

Maybe not. Right now there's the "tea party" protest movement going on, and their demonstrations have stayed on a single theme.

(Not that I expect them to be successful and prevail, though.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:38 PM on March 31, 2009


"There's something happening here…
what it is, ain't exactly clear."

There's a man with a book of university procedures in his hand,
Telling me, I've got to beware...
Stop, children, what's that sound,
Reach a consensus this time round...
Stop, hey, what's that sound,
Please keep our Macbooks off the ground.

Oh yeah, and the next time I hear *any* of you lot whining about what a bunch of useless assholes we boomers are, I'll be linking to this clip in response.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:46 PM on March 31, 2009 [5 favorites]


Campus Coalition For A Free Palestine And Ice Machine!

Cause it's about time there was an ice machine in the commons.
posted by awenner at 6:49 PM on March 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Maybe not. Right now there's the "tea party" protest movement going on,

That's a tea party without tea right? You know when Blacks marched in Selma they faced
"State troopers and the Dallas County Sheriff's Department, some mounted on horseback, awaited them. In the presence of the news media, the lawmen attacked the peaceful demonstrators with billy clubs, tear gas, and bull whips."

I'm not seeing anyone with that kind of conviction these days. I doubt peoples conviction. My point is, if you're gonna have a "tea party" someone's tea had better end up in Boston Harbor, or you're just playing at sticking it to the man.
posted by nola at 6:54 PM on March 31, 2009


Does the cameraman really think stating calmly that, "You can't use force, you can't detain me, you are on camera," is a valid means of actually fending off forcible detainment?

Don't they give these kids access to YouTube at these schools?
posted by WolfDaddy at 6:54 PM on March 31, 2009


It's a private university.

Well, it's a non-profit. I think taxpayers have a right to know how the sizable implicit subsidy of non-profit status is being spent and exactly what charitable services are being provided in exchange for that subsidy. I'm sure there are many such services ... like ... uh ....

Is providing tax-exempt shelter and subsidized educational services to comically ineffective protesters charitable?
posted by backupjesus at 7:02 PM on March 31, 2009


I liked this statement as their response to not getting expelled:

"The University clearly chose the martyrdom-prevention route and, as it did when it allowed students to use the bathroom, has taken a certain amount of weight out from underneath the group’s legs."


Oh, I do miss uni.
posted by Salmonberry at 7:10 PM on March 31, 2009




I hate these assholes, as they have, if anything, simply hurt the causes they supported. (I particularly support the grad student union idea, although, given my school and program (Steinhardt, MEd.), I wouldn't be part of it. However, I've seen enough friends get treated like shit in grad programs.) On the plus side, I now know what the "Take Back NYU!" graffiti I've been stepping on while I walk to class means. I had always wondered "take NYU back from what?"

And my friends ask me why I talk shit about the undergrads all the time.
posted by Hactar at 7:20 PM on March 31, 2009


But let's be honest. Like we never did anything callow or pretentious at that age?

Well, sure, but it was only known about by the whole school, not the whole world.

So what do we call this now, protexting? fauxtesting? Amnesty for themselves? Dammit, if you can't do the time, don't do the crime. Go to the library and read "Letters from a Birmingham Jail". Seriously.


Bangkok Protesters force Thai Cabinet to cancel meeting 15 hours ago

35,000 pack the London G20 march two days ago and ongoing.

Pakistan protests: Pitch rises (3/16/09)

Open the Acropolis, Greek President urges strikers to end protest (3/11/09)

Uprising in Greece: Protests, Riots, Strikes Enter 6th Day Following Fatal Police Shooting of Teen (12/08)


Yeah, that's how it's done.

What sticks in my mind though, is an article I read around the time either the Ukraine or Georgia became peacefully independent. There was a lot of behind the scenes work done by American advisers, providing symbols, images, and general advice on how to protest effectively. It occurred to me that if they knew how to do it right (we as in govt, whatever) then we know how to completely subvert and diffuse it here.

Which is effectively what's happened.

I just wish I could find the article. It was long, one of those in depth pieces. I want to say The Atlantic, but I've never been able to find it since.
posted by lysdexic at 7:30 PM on March 31, 2009


On the bright side, after watching that, no need to do my Kegels for the day.
posted by palliser at 7:35 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


The White Hat: Third wave / identity politics did a lot for their constituent groups, but it all happened at the cost of a unified message. Maybe my hindsight is clouded, but looking back at historical strikes and protests, the messages were clear: "give us our bonuses, we want civil rights, get us out of Vietnam." Not today, and perhaps no longer. Between identity politics and internet organizing of extremely small niche groups, I think that the era of unified mass protest is over.


This tendency developed as a reaction against the sectarianism, territoriality and factional disputes that would sometimes grip demonstrations in the past (and occasionally still does). Anarchists would have nothing to do with Marxists who, in turn, were both suspicious of environmentalists. There was much more concern about the organizer's message being co-opted by outside groups and much more suspicion of people who didn't subscribe to one's own very specific brand of radical leftism.

Consequently, the era of protest we currently find ourselves in is heavily into coalitions, as it is generally acknowledged that in-fighting is counter-productive. While there is risk of message dilution, as you pointed out, the purpose of forming large, diverse coalitions is to recognize that, no matter your specific cause, the thing being protested affects many people in many ways. The example usually brought forth to explain this is the Turtles and Teamsters coalition (AKA Teamsters for Turtles, Teamsters and Turtles), an attempt to heal a historically wide rift between radical environmentalists and labor advocates. The coalition formed around the time of the WTO protests in Seattle and was premised on the idea that the trade organization's policies were harmful to both the environment and labor rights.

Coalitions are also encouraged to resist divide and conquer political tactics.

When coalition building is done right, with plenty of advanced communication and organization between various large affinity groups who, themselves, are able to effectively communicate with their base, what you get is something much bigger and more effective than anything any one particular group could have ever done and pushes to the forefront the fact that global injustice affects everyone. When done poorly, you get the legalize marijuana guy at an anti-death penalty rally. What also doesn't help is the fact that this model leaves demonstrations open to less savory groups, such as Stalinists and Trotskyites, which reflects poorly on everyone else.

This was just a very long way of saying that it wasn't identity politics that can lead to the loss of a unified message but, rather, poor preparation and organization.
posted by KantGoOn at 7:35 PM on March 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Coalitions are also encouraged IN ORDER to resist divide and conquer political tactics. "
posted by KantGoOn at 7:37 PM on March 31, 2009


[Lots of really good examples of recent successful protests held abroad]
posted by ornate insect at 10:12 PM


I keep forgetting that people can get mefi in not-USA. You're right that protests have worked to instigate political change in some cases abroad, but speech is restricted in Thailand and Pakistan, meaning that protest one of few mass political tools. As for the G20/Greece/French protests, they haven't really done a lot, other than cause a PR blip. The torched cars will be turned right-side up, towed away, and replaced with new Fiats. The London protest sort of harks back to the battle of Seattle (of which nothing came).

So I should add the caveat that my theory only really holds in free countries without labor/racial issues on the Greek/French scale. Or, more safely, it only holds here in present-day US of A.
posted by The White Hat at 7:42 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was laughing my ass off through that whole video, partly because it was so hilarious, but mostly in relief that there was no such thing as YouTube when I was a pretentious college student who thought I was a Sandinista. I cast my vote for best line: "They drink corporate water." Classic.
posted by crazylegs at 7:42 PM on March 31, 2009


This was just a very long way of saying that it wasn't identity politics that can lead to the loss of a unified message but, rather, poor preparation and organization.

Which is just what you'd expect of anarchists, right?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:43 PM on March 31, 2009


Protest *is* one of few mass political tools, that is.
And KantGoOn has a point, but if they couldn't have a coherent message at one of the largest protests DC has seen recently (for which the President was on vacation in Texas), I don't know if they could have one at any demonstration of similar size or importance.
posted by The White Hat at 7:51 PM on March 31, 2009


You have to pretend you can't hear us.

Best part, actually, is how right before camera guy lays this one on the security guard, he sputters, "Earmuffs." Which is the line the Vince Vaughn character uses to instruct his toddler son to cover his ears to avoid hearing bad words in Old School.

Man, if someone had told SNCC about that tactic at Selma, I bet they totally would've avoided the whole firehose thing.
posted by gompa at 8:00 PM on March 31, 2009


I likes me a Coke and a good idiot beating.
posted by jimmythefish at 8:03 PM on March 31, 2009


Gompa's right, I change my vote. "You have to pretend you can't hear us" get's first place, with "they drink corporate water" a close second.
posted by crazylegs at 8:06 PM on March 31, 2009


I had skimmed the blog and the news earlier. Now I watched the video. Yes, that's the most embarrassing protest video ever. That plays out like a comedy sketch.

What's shocks me is how much more civil the police and the administrators are than the protesters.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:19 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Kids should've known to stand in the doorway.
posted by washburn at 8:39 PM on March 31, 2009


The most remarkable part is apparently the guy who filmed this thing decided to post it on YOUTUBE??? Man, if that was me I would have chucked the camera off the bridge and thrown myself after it. I give him props for maximum self esteem, though highly unwarranted.
posted by jcworth at 8:41 PM on March 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


Bookhouse, the word you're looking for is "Fremdschämen".
posted by elizardbits at 8:44 PM on March 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


Protests only work in Thailand because the Thai government is constantly on edge of being couped. If the military sees too many people protesting, they will get nervous and expel the government from office. (I'd be happy to e-mail a case study of the Assembly of the Poor to anyone who's interested in reading more about this.) If you want protests to be more effective in America perhaps we could implement the same system. I doubt peace protesters would prefer it to our horrible two-party system though.
posted by shii at 8:46 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't care how stupid the kids are, it really irritates me that people joke (or are maybe serious) about how they need to be maced or tazed or knocked upside the head in order to learn a lesson.
posted by hermitosis at 8:55 PM on March 31, 2009 [10 favorites]


Cool! This thread let's me know what it's like to attend a meeting of the Young Republicans without having to leave my chair!
posted by BugsPotter at 9:14 PM on March 31, 2009


Re: The Coke Ban, many students at NYU have bought into the Killer Coke movement.

Oh my, that's only the second time in my life I even heard of "Killer Coke". The first time was, I happened to be in NYC during the big anti-war protest coinciding with the RNC in town in 2004. I've given away the punchline, but suffice to say I deviated from the march route for a minute to purchase a cool, refreshing Coca-Cola © from a nearby deli. It was a bit of a least-resistance type junction I suppose, because a decent number of marchers had spilled from the route and accumulated there.

So anyway, I happily strode from the shop with my freshly acquired Coca-Cola ©, when this young man piped up. Being an inquisitive chap, I immediately focused my attention to this shaggy idiot who, if you'll pardon my English, had just moments before been no doubt extolling the virtues of a four-cornered Earth day, or how Dick Cheney was controlling his thoughts or whatever, or that at least was all I gathered on my way to the deli.

He was literally standing on a soap box.

Right in the middle of some Godwin-rich diatribe on the Bush regime, half sensible to my Euro ears, half clinically paranoid by any standard, he pointed at me and my can full of delight with its freshly-clicked tab, and declaimed, without missing a beat:

"COKE KILLS, YOU KNOW!!"

I would have felt deeply embarassed, probably even freezing in my tracks to process this cognitively dissonant episode for a moment, but luckily there were 30 or so people on hand to instantly, vocally deride the speaker.

I merrily continued on my way.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:21 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Riot! Riot! Riot!" - that was painful.
posted by dougzilla at 9:22 PM on March 31, 2009


"The revolution will be YouTube-vized."
posted by spock at 9:23 PM on March 31, 2009


More embarrassing than that video? This thread.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 9:31 PM on March 31, 2009


Possibly the only youtube video I've seen that is appreciably worse than its comments.
posted by 31d1 at 9:31 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


At least they actually took over the food court for a while. In '95 the student government at UWO organized a "virtual sit-in":

"Would-be protesters can join the 'sit-in' by clicking on one of an array of happy faces that appear on-screen. By completing this simple action, the student's name is added to the list of protesters 'occupying' the president's office and an e-mail is sent to UWO president Paul Davenport."

That's Western in a nutshell.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:33 PM on March 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


What a bunch of sissies. Here are some students that actually changed things with their protests (though bringing down the dictator has produced dubious, unstable results).
posted by Burhanistan at 9:34 PM on March 31, 2009


Recently, I was at the Powershift '09 environmental youth conference in DC. On the second night, Saturday, the Roots played an amazing concert at the Washington Convention Center. The concert ended around 11pm and thousands of (mostly) students started exiting through the main lobby. As more and more students congregated in the lobby, they all started chanting "Pow-er-shift! Pow-er-shift!" I would guess there were at least 3,000 people all chanting and yelling together packed into this one area. At one point, it was so loud I could not hear what my friend was yelling to me.

Soon the crowd started pouring onto the street in front of Mt Vernon Square, blocking off traffic and starting chants like "This is what democracy looks like" and "End Clean Coal." A few people started to link arms in the middle of the street trying to get more people to join them. Some of the Powershift organizers came out and started breaking it up. For the most part, everyone moved out of the street when the first cop cars came.

Then, a few people started yelling "Let's go to the White House!" Suddenly, the massive crowd started walking west. It was sleeting and cold, but the energy was alive. About halfway to the White House, the crowd decided to jog, then sprint. At least one person was yelling for us to "Get in the street!"

By the time we reached the Penn Ave side of the White House, there were cops lined up on the sidewalk keeping us in order. I would guess the crowd was about 1000 to 2000 people. We filled the entire street behind the WH. The crowd then continued more chants. At this point, a few of us started joking that the next day's headlines would read: Confused Liberal Crowd Protests Liberal President. I dont think Obama was even there. I think he had just given the speech at Camp Lejeune. Maybe we woke Sasha and Malia though. Then from the roof of the WH, a spotlight was pointed at us. This just made the crowd even crazier, everyone jumping up and down and yelling. Then the spotlight (brilliantly in my book) was turned on the American flag on the roof. This prompted the crowd to start singing the national anthem. Halfway through the anthem, though, half the crowd forgot the words and it ended up becoming one giant mumble.

A little embarrassing, fun and youth-led.
posted by paulinsanjuan at 9:35 PM on March 31, 2009 [8 favorites]


It seems like quite a bit of the information on NYU's finances is publicly available since it is a nonprofit. From NYU's website: To request a copy of New York University's most recently filed IRS Form 990, please send an e-mail to the following address: Form990request@nyu.edu. Please be sure to provide your name and contact information. Washington square campus budget http://www.nyu.edu/about/budget/ The endowment stuff is probably in their Annual Report which I bet the Development office would give to anyone if one were to ask nicely.
posted by fieldtrip at 9:51 PM on March 31, 2009


Wow, what an amazing video. It made me sympathize much more for the poor administrator who had to deal with the mess.

These people are really tone-deaf.
posted by grouse at 10:00 PM on March 31, 2009


The crux of the problem with student protests:

...There is the horrible--the really disquieting--prevalence of cranks wherever Socialists are gathered together. One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words 'Socialism' and 'Communism' draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, 'Nature Cure' quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.

One day this summer I was riding through Letchworth when the bus stopped and two dreadful-looking old men got on to it. They were both about sixty, both very short, pink, and chubby, and both hatless. One of them was obscenely bald, the other had long grey hair bobbed in the Lloyd George style. They were dressed in pistachio-coloured shirts and khaki shorts into which their huge bottoms were crammed so tightly that you could study every dimple. Their appearance created a mild stir of horror on top of the bus. The man next to me, a commercial traveller I should say, glanced at me, at them, and back again at me, and murmured 'Socialists'

posted by KokuRyu at 10:21 PM on March 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


I find myself of two minds about this protest.

On the one hand, as an NYU alumnus whose loans are still in deferment, I have to wonder just how the hell they are justifying making all those undergrads pay $50,000 a year to go to the school.

Do I regret my time there? No. But my parents could have paid their mortgage off by the time I graduated had I gone to a state school where I'm from. And, at least when I was there, NYU was the second largest private landowner behind the Catholic church in Manhattan. So I do have to wonder where the hell all of the money is going.

On the other hand, what the hell did this accomplish besides making the participants feel important? I know they at least care about something, which is better than the other 99% of the students who go there and blithely complain in private about how expensive the education has become. But this "direct action" was so poorly conceived of in the first place and so well managed by the administration that it accomplished less than nothing.

I have no answers to the problems of the cost and quality of higher education in this country, but I can't fault these kids for at least being aware that there is a problem. Yes, there are quality state schools out there, but I would argue that the kids are being sold on the name. Plus some of the programs at NYU are actually stellar (Photography, in my biased opinion).

/* N.B. I am still very bitter that they wouldn't give me more than 1k in grants a year but spent thousands on LCD televisions to act as bulletin boards in their buildings. */
posted by ChutneyFerret at 10:52 PM on March 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


There are so many hilarious lines, it's hard to decide on a favorite. That cameraman --- the main one you hear speaking, is such a fucking moron, I kept asking myself, "Is this a parody?"

**

Whoa, hey, what's up. How's it going, I'm getting the same footage.

**

We deserve to be explained, like, what is going on?

**

Cameraman: Are they armed? Do they have tasers?

Guy in maroon sweater: They're unarmed, unarmed security.

Cameraman: Alright, as long as they don't have devices of force.

**

Guy in maroon sweater: What I'm going to need is the NYU ID's from all the people who are NYU students.

Cameraman: Can you explain yourself what ... th-th-that's a demand, but can you explain, like, the nature of that, why you're saying that, what is your intent?
posted by jayder at 11:10 PM on March 31, 2009


chutneyferret: But my parents could have paid their mortgage off by the time I graduated had I gone to a state school where I'm from.

You weren't forced to go to NYU, were you? Why didn't you just go to a state school where you are from?
posted by jayder at 11:11 PM on March 31, 2009


It's like a baby bird, flexing its wings.
I know the narrator has a slight airhead lilt to him, but he's really totally trying, you know? Trying really really hard to remember everything he knows about protesting correctly. With a bunch of scattered kids around him. There's something sweet about the earnestness. Also, something ridiculous.
posted by redsparkler at 11:38 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I managed to end up outside of the Kimmel Center a few hours before this occurred, drunk off my ass, and attempted to find out what exactly the demands of the occupiers were and was fed the mix of nonsense repeated above. What struck me most, though, was the protesters protesting the protesters, chanting 'Enjoy jail!' again and again. It made the occupation of the New School look like the storming of the Winter Palace, it did. So me and my similarly intoxicated room-mate screamed 'YOU ARE ALL INSIGNIFICANT!' a half dozen times and stumbled away. It didn't do much good, but it made us feel better.
posted by Football Bat at 11:43 PM on March 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's like an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, only funny for the whole time.
posted by showmethecalvino at 12:51 AM on April 1, 2009


This is seriously the dumbest protest I have ever seen. I am wholeheartedly in favour with all their demands, and I still think they're a bunch of douchebags without a clue who are harming the causes more than they're helping them.
posted by tehloki at 12:53 AM on April 1, 2009


what good is a college education if you can't figure out how to stick a wad of gum in the coin slot of a coke machine?
posted by pyramid termite at 12:58 AM on April 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


TDDW
(Too Dumb Didn't Watch)
posted by zoinks at 1:12 AM on April 1, 2009


chutneyferret: But my parents could have paid their mortgage off by the time I graduated had I gone to a state school where I'm from.

jayder: You weren't forced to go to NYU, were you? Why didn't you just go to a state school where you are from?


True, but as I said, NYU does have some really excellent programs. At the time, I wanted to be a photographer and Tisch's photo program and the facilities were much better than I could have had at LSU. Access to the NYC art scene was another consideration.

So while I'm sure the cachet of the name played some part in my decision, there really were other reasons why I chose NYU over a local school. The point I was trying to make with that part of my comment was that I don't know if I could recommend NYU over a state school for general education purposes.

The particular merits and flaws of NYU aside, my larger concern is over the commodification and rationalization of higher education. As long as an undergraduate degree is a gateway to many forms of middle-class or higher living, the market will bear higher costs for a fancy school name on the diploma. Again, this is not to say that I probably did not do this myself.

To get back to the topic at hand, the reason why I at least sympathize with the ideals of these protestors is that they are trying to grapple with the conflict between the ideals of higher education and its reality. I just wish they would do so in a less ham-handed and ineffective manner.

Do you see the problem differently? Are they making a fuss over nothing? Or are there underlying issues that they are discomforted by but lack the articulateness to speak to?
posted by ChutneyFerret at 1:48 AM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Aw, fuck. I am sure some overeducated students sounded silly during their anti-apartheid protests in the 1980s. This individual protest doesn't matter by itself much, but combined with all the other university occupations for Palestine going on it matters a good deal. There's more political space to be pro Palestinian in the Western world than there has been for a very long time and these protests are part of it. I'm sure glad I don't sound that way anymore, and I'd recommend that students videotape themselves less and put shit on the internet less, respecting their own privacy and capacity to grow later, but I'm more offended than I thought I would be at everyone getting luls from this post.
posted by By The Grace of God at 2:04 AM on April 1, 2009


seriously fuck luls. Let's all be compassionate. No more luls except for silly stuff like cats falling humourously off things, or actual intentional comedy sketches. STOP WITH THE LULS people you are withering your own hearts.
posted by By The Grace of God at 2:06 AM on April 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


> Wasn't there an AskMe recently about what the correct word was for being embarrassed for someone else?

Kafkaesque.

Well, if you ask me at least.
posted by wrok at 4:54 AM on April 1, 2009


We are the Judean People's Front!
posted by MuffinMan at 5:28 AM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Because NYU is famously, a very expensive school, I had always assumed its admission standards were high. Are these clowns imposters?
posted by psmealey at 5:53 AM on April 1, 2009


Yes, many of them. The video description claims that the cameraman is not an NYU student.
posted by grouse at 6:15 AM on April 1, 2009


Are we sure this wasn't another Improv Everywhere event?
posted by Spatch at 7:24 AM on April 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have always thought consensus was really a four letter word...
posted by schyler523 at 7:28 AM on April 1, 2009


We are the Judean People's Front!

splitter
posted by nola at 7:28 AM on April 1, 2009


No more luls except for silly stuff like cats falling humourously off things, or actual intentional comedy sketches. STOP WITH THE LULS people you are withering your own hearts.

Fascist.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:35 AM on April 1, 2009


You can have the luls, but I'm keeping the lulz.
posted by grouse at 8:16 AM on April 1, 2009


That video is just so white.
posted by lunit at 9:23 AM on April 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


We'll have to get a consensus on how we are to approach the idea of changing our stance on luls or lulz. Is anyone here able to facilitate at this point?
posted by not_on_display at 10:13 AM on April 1, 2009


Can we be LOLocaust deniers as well?
posted by Burhanistan at 10:14 AM on April 1, 2009


I'm starting to really loathe what counts as 'hippies' these days.

I've always gone to protests dressed pretty normally, and I cringe at a lot of the people who show up and just how... lame it all is. There's the old hippies wearing hemp shirts and beads, ululating and banging on a tom-tom they're wheeling along. There's the fucking 60-year-old Quakers swaying in unison singing "This Little Star of Mine" staying in the protest area, which happens to be in a parking lot behind a park where nobody could even see it. It's preaching to the choir, it's no fun, and I really don't think it's how you get change done.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:41 AM on April 1, 2009


Don't forget the guy on stilts in the crotchless Uncle Sam suit.
posted by Divine_Wino at 12:59 PM on April 1, 2009


direct democracy is hard, and takes practice.
posted by ioesf at 8:18 PM on April 1, 2009


Holy christ I could only make it through about thirty seconds of that.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:52 PM on April 1, 2009


The cameraman Alex Lotorto, who is reportedly not an NYU student, appears to have posted some comments on the NYULocal blog.

*****************

Alex Lotorto
Feb 23, 2009 7:24

Hey its me, the douchebag.

I’m just going to post my press conference piece for you couch potatoes who haven’t done a thing in the past week to organize for social change.

Thursday at 5pm Press Conference:

Students from the City University of New York, Drew University, New School University, Columbia University, and Muhlenberg College have joined this occupation in solidarity with the 21 organizations that comprise Take Back NYU!

As we read the demands with you, we find a great parallel between these and work happening in the global student power movement, especially at our universities.

At the City University of New York, students are organizing around tuition hikes and anti-war activism.

At Drew University, students are organizing around accessible, affordable education and socially responsible investing.

At Muhlenberg College, our chapter of Students for a Democratic Society is organizing a campaign for socially responsible investing and a students bill of rights.

At New School University they are demanding that their President Bob Kerrey resign by April 1st.

At Columbia University, students are organizing solidarity with Gaza after Israel’s attacks last month.

This occupation explodes the capacity for us to win on our very similar struggles. Most of all, this is a human issue. The people of Gaza, the workers at this university, and our student brothers and sisters are fighting for their freedom.

We all agree, we cannot be free unless everyone is free.

We cannot stand on the sidelines, the sidewalk and watch.

Please repeat after me, WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED.

And by the way, my camera was a mechanism that probably prevented brutality like happened at New School in December where they weren’t on top of that as much…the black trench coat guy threw me an elbow and I was trying to keep a level head as people were panicking…the rest of the negotiations absolve me…I’m going to post those soon for you to poo poo.

NYPD has used violence on protesters in the past. We were lucky NYPD didn’t get in the night before or else you might have been scrubbing our blood off the walls like at Columbia in 1968.

I kept it clean, calm, and snarky. Let me know when you want to get off your ass and struggle to free people you’ve never met. I’ll be there with you.

Alex Lotorto
Feb 23, 2009 7:28

oo and btw, using corporations’ stuff to liberate yourself isn’t a contradiction. Organizing also has to be accessible…if I told you I don’t use computers, would you listen to me and join my cause?

If I walked up to you naked organizing against sweatshops, would you listen? and so on…get some movement literature, talk to some real progressive people, not mainstream Democrats, and then start calling me out on hypocrisy.

Poo poo poo. When are YOU going to do something to liberate someone?
posted by jayder at 11:44 AM on April 10, 2009


Please repeat after me, WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED.

How do you repeat after a press release?

get some movement literature

read it, memorize it, regurgitate portions of it ineptly and seemingly at random on camera in a context that makes you look like an idiot...
posted by cortex at 12:07 PM on April 10, 2009


Poo on you!
posted by ericb at 12:51 PM on April 10, 2009


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