The popcorn stand
April 24, 2017
"We're marching for/against something on Saturday," said the text from my wife, or that's how I remember it.
Technically, it may have said "Do you want to … ?" but "yes" is the only proper answer.
I have marched for many things and against some things. I did not believe at the time my marching made any difference. I would have marched a lot more if I could have convinced myself it was helping the cause.
Leading up to my Saturday morning walk, I looked for academic studies available online (a fancy way of saying "I typed a question into a search engine") and what I found (drum roll) … didn't really answer the question.
In fact, the conclusion of an article on the website of the London School of Economics and Political Science said, "In conclusion, studies … are inconclusive and incomplete." (http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/how-effective-are-protests)
Summing up the various pieces I read, marches alone normally don't accomplish their stated goals. But, as part of a larger movement, they can play a role in creating change. Like many things in life, it comes down to the follow through.
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"The civil rights movement and more recent social movements, like the tea party, succeeded because they worked hard on three key factors: organization, messaging and nonviolence," wrote Shom Mazumder on Jan. 27 in the Washington Post in an article that summarized the most recent research into my question ("Yes, marches can make a difference. It depends on these three factors," https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/01/27/yes-marches-can-really-matter-these-three-factors-make-the-difference/?utm_term=.552f792192b7)
Marches are helpful in gaining attention. They provide plenty of images and they don't require a major time investment for the media. And participants feel good for the effort. But a march itself isn't likely to change anything.
Most of my decisions can be reduced to three possible outcomes: I can help, hurt or make no difference. In the end, I marched because I came to the conclusion it cannot hurt. If that is true, maybe it will help.
— Rick Hoover