There was a solidarity rally at Barton Moss on Sunday 12th January. Another has been called for this coming Sunday, 26th January. Solidarity is good, but solidarity and movement-building is even better. This below is the tidied-up text of an email I sent to someone involved in one of the campaigning groups involved. It’s about how another such day could be more effective. That person responded very positively, and perhaps others will too? #fingerscrossed.
Analysis of the rally today.
[see the end of the post for the stuff I wrote as preamble]
The rally, in my opinion, was an opportunity to increase the “logistics” of the movement.
Structure of the day
At the outset it would have been great to have had five or ten people in “official” clothing (even if it was just a bib over the top of coats – it’s way too cold for getting about in t-shirts!) handing out a “welcome to the rally” sheet.
This could include
a) thanks for coming
b) how you can help the campaign (money, letters to MPs/papers etc)
c) a list of skills/equipment that the campaign would like
d) a phone number for what to do if it kicks off and the police decide to arrest people (yes, I know it didn’t happen today, but including this sort of information on leaflets is worth it)
It also would need a bit on why the camp exists, who iGas are, what the campaign thinks the next flashpoint(s) will be.
At the outset as well as thanking people for coming
- encourage them to speak to other people whom they know slightly or not at all
- encourage them to smile and wave at the cars (though people did this already)
- make it repeatedly and crystal clear that their involvement is wanted for the Long Haul; that they have skills and knowledge and resources that are vital to the struggle
During the march and at the rallying point, have “official” people circulating with A5 papers on clipboards. These sheets of A5 give people a space to write their name, their email address and perhaps a tick list of skills that they might have.
Then you can email all the people who came to personally thank them.
Ask everyone to join the facebook groups. Have a hashtag.
Ask people to make films about why fracking is a bad idea and put them up on youtube.
Ask them to blog
Ask them to leave supportive comments on the MEN articles
At the rallying point.
Start with a song.
Keep. The. Speeches. To. A. Minimum! (but that’s just me. I hate the damn things. Most people aren’t listening, and what is being said is worthy, predictable and largely uninspiring…)
Have someone who gets everyone turning and talking to a stranger. The bosses want us to be isolated. We need to learn to connect with each other. [link to my Alexandra Park speech]
You could even get us into small (5 or 6 people) brain-storming groups for ten minutes. Provide paper and a pen and ask groups to come up with answers to questions like “what can we learn from past protest camps?”, “what do our work colleagues/casual acquaintances not understand about fracking/what bits of pro-fracking propaganda have gained traction”, “besides camps and rallies and petitions, how else can we convert people’s anger into political power?” Then collect the paper, type them up and put them on the website. (At the very least, the act of getting into small groups introduces people to strangers, and gets them thinking more strategically.)
Finish with a song, or a cheer or something, before people head down to the camp itself.
I have a few skills (writing, film-making, being interviewed on radio, blogging, writing letters to the newspaper). At no point today was it at all clear to me if/how any of those skills were wanted and how they could be harnessed. At no point did I hear that my skills were wanted, or that if I joined, I would learn new skills. (And yes, this rally wasn’t about me. But it was, surely, about getting people more involved?)
I hope the campaign goes from strength to strength. I hope that the next rally innovates a bit more!
“rallies and marches are not a progression of the great non-violent direct action movements of the past. They are exactly what they sound like: a very limited and rather banal aspect of a much more interesting and dynamic manifestation of global historic and modern day social change…”
The preamble that I’ve relegated to here–
First thing – congratulations on the event, and the ongoing campaign, and I would like to know how I can help further. (Getting there is problematic for me)
The main purpose of the rally seems to have been to raise morale among the campaigners (and especially the campers), with a secondary aim of getting some positive press (though this is of course fraught).
I am not qualified to speak to the morale question – though the people I spoke to mostly seemed to have a good time there. (I did not, but I realise I have become utterly cynical about these sorts of events, so I am not a reliable barometer).
On the press thing – well, the BBC story on their website was neutral, at least until it reported the clever smear from a few days ago. We will have to wait and see what/if the MEN says. I think we may overestimate the importance of the MEN, tbh.
What I want to focus on, however, is the missed opportunities from today’s event – not so much what did happen, but what didn’t happen but could have happened.
I know that some of this will be taken as a criticism. And I know that we humans tend to get very defensive and deaf when we perceive ourselves to being criticised/attacked. There’s not a lot I can do about that, other than ask that people try to understand that I am writing this in the hope that “we” – those actively opposed to the unfolding insanity – can get better at the way we do things.