How to Organize a Local Protest Group

Protest groups get started because someone becomes irate about something that they feel like they can change if they gather others just as irate together to form a group.  Protesting an outcome or a law is easy for the passionate but sometimes passion has a short fuse and if you have put together a protest group, you need to be prepared to see the protest through all the way to the end which is generally much longer than you think that it will be. 

A great example:  Sheridan, Colorado residents have been working for quite some time in trying to get rid of red-light cameras out of their intersections.  They have submitted a petition three times to have the city of Sheridan put the use of red-light cameras on the ballot and three times have been rejected by the city clerk on a technicality.  In early June, the small group of protestors decided to sue the town of Sheridan. The members of this protest group are indeed in this for the long haul. 

Another group recently in the news has started protesting one of the new toll roads that has been proposed for Oklahoma.  After the Oklahoma Governor announced a comprehensive toll road plan for the state, this particular group began gathering forces to protest just 20 miles of a toll road in the Northeastern part of the state.  They don’t want to lose their property and they are holding fundraisers and awareness rallies to encourage other citizens in the area to join them in what they see as a long legal fight. 

How does one start a protest group?  The National Motorists Association began as a protest group protesting the 55 mph speed limit imposed on the entire country in wake of the oil crisis in the 1970’s.  Founder Jim Baxter said he started the protest by asking other friends from around the country to join in building a coalition to repeal the 55 mph speed limit.  This coalition of friends has blossomed into the National Motorists Association, a grassroots, non-partisan advocacy association fighting on the behalf of the American motorist. Of course, many protest groups stay just that and have a finite purpose in defeating or advocating for a particular issue. 

How does one start a local group?

1)       Define the problem that you want to solve first.  Create an elevator pitch so that it is easy for others to understand the problem and what you want to do about it.

2)      ASK.  Ask your family, friends and neighbors to support the cause and get them involved.

3)      Decide with your core group of protesters how you will protest and make sure you tell everyone what you are going to do and then do it.  The group does not to have a formal structure to be effective. 

4)      Contact the media about your cause and ask them to write a story from your perspective.

5)      Walk door-to-door and talk over the issues with your neighbors, hand out leaflets on the street, and talk to civic groups.  Get your message out there any way you can as long as it is peaceful and law abiding.  If protest groups openly advocate violence or break the law, then the credibility of the group declines and that hurts your message. 

6)      Make signs that folks can place in their yard or on their car or ones that you hold up yourself if you are holding a rally. Make T-shirts and hats. 

7)      Create a public event like a rally or a fundraiser to bring awareness to your cause and to find more hands-on support and cash. 

8)      Document your protest activities with a website and through social media.

9)       Find elected officials who feel the same way and ask them to help champion your cause in their elected house. 

10)    Keep the issue front and center in people’s minds so that you can sway public opinion and bring awareness to the general public.

The most important thing about protest groups is to know how far you will go to make a difference.  Peaceful demonstrations are always the best and if a protest march or rally turns ugly, be prepared for dealing with that with your fellow protesters and the police.   

If you have the passion and drive to make change, putting together a local protest group against a particular problem such as red-light cameras, use of automatic license plate readers by local police or protesting the unsustainability of Vision Zero projects in your town can make an impact. 

Be willing to go the distance and do not be afraid. 

Be safe and have fun driving! 

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