By Aprille Gozdecki, staff writer and Audissey Hernandez, staff writer
In the midst of a pandemic, protests addressing social injustices have become more frequent and visible, though COVID-19 has made it more difficult to safely and effectively participate in these calls of activism.
Students and faculty at Cal Poly Pomona shared strategies for protesting during these challenging times and shared their own experiences.
Maddie Ricker, third-year English education student with a minor in music, is an experienced protester who attends protests mainly with her friends. She always stays prepared with water, snacks, extra pairs of socks to avoid blisters, a first aid kit and a mask.
“Masks stay on the whole time and if I see someone who has them down, I tell them they need to put it up, especially if they are on your side,” said Ricker. “If people are taking pictures, you don’t want it to be publicized that your movement has people that aren’t wearing masks and aren’t being safe during COVID.”
Remaining safe while demonstrating remains important to protesters while getting their message out. It is necessary to protect from the dangers of a protest going south, but also from the dangers of the ongoing virus.
Ricker added that if a protest becomes agitated and the police are involved, it is important to listen to what authorities are telling protesters. She thinks that at that point, protesters should call it quits for the day because the police will not allow the demonstration to continue.
Martin Luther King Jr. realized that in order for a protest to be effective, it needed to be televised or documented. People need to know when a protest is happening and the mission behind the protest.
Yet, study conducted by The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, highlights a recent Morning Consult poll where out of 1,990 adults surveyed, 42% believe that most protestors associated with the BLM movement are violent.
“It’s a certain type of discipline that goes with protests and the most effective protests are the ones that are the most disciplined,” said Renford Reese, a political science department professor. “It’s letting people know that looting is prohibited, that rioting is prohibited, fighting is prohibited. Physicality in front of police or spitting are types of things that undermine the spirit of the movement.”
The ACLED study also found that 93% of BLM protests have remained peaceful. Ricker believes that protests can act as a community builder and foster a welcoming environment.
While the civil rights movement may have started in 1954, for many it has never ended.
“Our society is fundamentally built off of racism, built off of sexism, built off of a kind of neoliberal policy agenda and political economy,” said Brady Collins, a political science department assistant professor. “There’s so many ways that we can address these issues, but the most important and fundamental one is just not being apathetic and not being completely cynical and jaded when it comes to politics.”
History is set in stone, but the future is ever changing and evolving. History gives context to what not to repeat in the future and calls for change.
Emily Serrano, a fourth-year early childhood studies student and student activist, attended a Black Lives Matter protest earlier this year and was moved by her experience.
“Not only was it rewarding, of course, to stand up for something that you believe in, but I really wanted to have my voice be heard and it gave me a sense of purpose and selflessness,” said Serrano. “That’s why I chose to keep doing it because I think it’s really important to support other people who may not have the same resources and privilege that I do.”
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