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​PATEL: Unorganized protests accomplish little

Demonstrations do not result in tangible change

Save your anger. The way toward meaningful social change in America is not dialogue and it is definitely not demonstration. Recent anger over the brutal actions of the agents of the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is being misdirected. I am as outraged as the next guy, but I am also much more cynical about the chance for change than the next guy. I am this way because of the large number of examples of anger leading to meaningful action that doesn’t produce meaningful change.

Horizontalism, in which change is enacted by a broad and leaderless base, is rather egalitarian and ideologically pure. However, it doesn’t produce the meaningful change that a well-organized and vertically-based movement with strong leaders can. The problem is that the latter hasn’t fully materialized from the outrage and the former — mostly demonstrations and dialogue — are what we have to rely on. The only tangible result is an investigation ordered by the governor, one that will most likely have as big an effect as the Justice Department’s report on criminal justice in Ferguson, MO — namely, the resignation of one judge.

There are a great number of examples of movements that failed because of a lack of effective organization. This is what I am afraid of happening for the problem of police brutality in America. If there is no effective organization in the form of lobbying groups to enact proposed policies, there can be no effective change.

An example of where a movement of this type failed was in the Occupy Wall Street protests during late 2011. Protesters classified themselves as a leaderless movement that did no lobbying and expressed their wishes through demonstration and social media. They have been, however, a resounding failure in the pursuit of their goals. They have accomplished little of what they set out to do and have seen some of their goals regress, especially in terms of income inequality. Occupy Wall Street failed because the “occupiers” did not organize effectively into groups that appeal to a wider base through public outreach and lobbying to enact change on both the local and federal level.

I don’t want this to happen to our generation with our defining problems: inequality, systemic racism and police brutality. In the case of the latter two, we have a unique opportunity to enact change on a scale and at a level that we can achieve through leveraging our position as a high-end institution of higher learning. The advantage comes from the fact that many of us will graduate from here and become leaders in both the government and private sector and, from those positions, would be highly suited to fund and enact change.

Funneling our energies into demonstrations and working to pressure the University to change is pointless. This is because the University is beholden to no one but the Board of Visitors, and the Board appears to care only for financing and little about student opinion, as evidenced by its new tuition hike and preference for the areas of this school that yield the most in donations. Additionally, the ABC and the police are protected by laws that justify and condone their actions.

The question is, what are we trying to accomplish with demonstrations and protests? A severe handicap to widespread support is the misplaced belief that singling out one race’s problems and trying to correct that handicap with privileges requires reducing the importance or status of other ethnicities. Such beliefs alienate a large group of people who are integral to creating the base necessary to enact change. The vocal minority will yell and scream and nothing will change because what they say is not palatable to a large enough group of people. Then eventually everyone will forget and lose the volition to do anything. It is a script that has been played out before.

The Rolling Stone article that shocked the University earlier this semester has since been discredited. However, the underlying problems of sexual assault are still present. Where is the discussion and discourse that is so badly needed? It has been lost because all of our energy was expended making meaningless action that accomplished nothing — including vandalizing Phi Psi and hosting ineffective marches.

Organization is the only way to accomplish our goals, not aggressive social media posts and not demonstrations with no tangible goals besides “fostering dialogue.” An organized strategy may take time and it will take money but it will lead to many more tangible results than continuing the current strategy of fostering dialogue and showing solidarity.

Sawan Patel is an Opinion columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at