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February 26, 2012

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Kelly Clifton

Your post is a very interesting and important topic. Looking at the Living Wage Campaign, the protesters are still working hard at demanding a living wage for all University employees. Just this past Tuesday, the protesters held a rally to demand that all University wage information be made public. Whether you agree with the Living Wage Campaign or not, the issue calls forth the question of how much of an impact do these kinds of protests have on communities. Do they actually work?

Some say that our generation of educated college students growing up in the 1990s is too apathetic toward the political process. This generation is too focused on getting a job, making the buck, and doing what society tells us to do, that we fail to question the society in which we live stringently. I would suggest that the Living Wage Campaign is a perfect example that of how Virginia is still a politically mobilized state, as you rightly point out in your blog. My assessment is not looking at the merit of the Living Wage Campaign, because I do not necessarily agree with its demands entirely. However, I admire and commend the action taken by these students and community members. This kind of example shows that protest does exist, regardless of how students today are thought to have forgotten about political mobilization.

I agree that the lack of urban violence, in combination with progress, is an excellent combination. Just this past spring, classmates and I participated with the League of Women Voters in a redistricting competition, where the competition represented a silent protest against the unfair gerrymandering of electoral districts. We actually managed to change the plans the General Assembly adopted for the state. That kind of action helped me realize, and agree with what you have said, that protests like the Living Wage Campaign and programs like the Virginia Redistricting Competition are essential to community building.

My only question in regards to your post is how do these kinds of nonviolent protests illustrate their success? What are the metrics? Will the $13/hour wage illustrate the success of the Living wage Campaign? Alternatively, will Charlottesville see that success actually is a broader goal, perhaps the connection between fair wage rates and community development? Further research to determine the metrics of assessing the success of a protest, and its long-term impact, may shed light on how to create and sustain a politically mobilized Virginia.

Danielle Coles

Ryan,

I found your blog to be very interesting, and I thought it was an unique take on the effectiveness of the Living Wage Campaign and other nonviolent protests. After reading your blog I began to contemplate why America, in particular, has not truly had any violent civil protests or mass riots since the 1960s. I’m not sure if this is addressed in Michael Katz’s book, but my first thought was that our generation is living in a era of catastrophe and crisis. In the two decades since our birth, we have experienced the terrorist attacks of September 11th, an endless war in the Middle East, the tsunami in Indonesia and South Asia, Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti, and the housing market crisis that was the start of a long recession that we still haven’t recovered from. All of this has led to a rethinking about the ways in which we deal with crisis and civil unrest. Rather than burning flags and smoking all of our problems away, we have learned to come together and support each other, not only within our communities, but also internationally.

I think this has a lot do with what we learned this semester about asset building in communities. Americans have come to realize, through tragedy, that each of us can make a difference no matter how small, and that we each have leadership qualities that can be maximized for the better good. One particular example is the massive amount of money that the world raised in support of South Asia in the few short hours after the tsunami hit. Nonprofit organizations reached out, not to the wealthy philanthropists who had millions to spare, but to teenagers and young adults who could text $10 from their phones. Then, after the earthquake in Haiti, I remember my church passing around a collect plate for donations, and my youth group had a canned food and bottled water drive. In the case of Hurricane Katrina certainly people were extremely upset about the government’s slow response, but rather than cursing FEMA and protesting outside of their headquarters, they showed anger and unrest towards the government by responding to the residents of Louisiana much more quickly and effectively than the government ever could. In each of these examples, it was discovered that when they unite, individuals can play a positive role in shaping outcomes on a global scale.

This is not to say that by supporting each other and sending aid to localities in need that we can solve all of our problems. In the recent cases of the Troy Davis (the black man who was executed for a crime based on retracted witness testimony) and Travon Martin (the 17-year-old black boy who was murdered by a neighborhood watchman), petitions and rallies helped to bring these cases to national attention. For the African American population, we have taken heart from the nonviolent protests of Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Park, and the Little Rock Nine, among others. We have learned that the best way to make a difference and to have our voices heard, is not to be the violent and threatening people that we are expected to be, but to carry ourselves with pride and dignity.

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