"A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."– Margaret Meade
Politics is a very passionate subject, so much so that it's considered a taboo topic to bring up in social settings, as it is surely likely to pit people against each other's throats in extremely heated disagreements.
So instead of alienating everyone around you at your next social function, why not channel that overwhelming passion you have about something, whether it is politics, the environment, world peace or poverty, into the socially acceptable art of demonstration.
Finding Your Passion
Merriam Webster describes "demonstration" as "an outward expression or…public display of group feelings toward a person or cause." The term "demonstration" was originally coined during the civil rights movement of the 1950s-1970s, regarding the nonviolent marches, walks and rallies, opposers participated in, as an expression of their disdain for the social injustices of the time.
I have many causes in life that I am passionate about, but besides my love for God, the one thing that I feel most passionate about is animal rights.
I firmly believe that animals are sentient beings, meaning that they have the ability to experience feelings, very similar to the ones humans experience such as happiness, loneliness, but especially pain, thus entitling them to the same rights as humans.
Animals today experience so much unnecessary pain and torture in the name of human "consumption," that I decided to take a personal stand and do something about it. I decided to become a vegan.
PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has a mission statement that I use as a paraphrased definition of what being an "ethical vegan" means; PETA's mission is that:
* Animals Are Not Ours to Wear
* Animals Are Not Ours to Experiment On
* Animals Are Not Ours to Use for Entertainment
* Animals Are Not Ours to Abuse in Any Way
I have taken my love for animals and PETA's mission to heart, in not only making a personal change, but also in educating others on how they can do their part in eliminating animal cruelty. (Warning gratuitous self-promotion ahead! – check out my Vegan Eating Guide that I did for Cincy Chic back in June.)
Hitting the Streets
Demonstration plays an integral part in educating people about a particular cause that you are passionate about.
Whether your cause is political, economical or social, you can utilize effective demonstration as a tool in educating people about your cause, on a larger level.
Finding the Right Resources
It's important to do research about your particular cause before you decide to publicly align yourself with anyone's campaign.
Whether it was the death of a family member from cancer that turned you into a champion for finding a cure for breast cancer, or the rape of a friend, which has made you an advocate for tougher "date-rape" sentences, or the discrimination against a certain group of people, that has turned you into a human rights activist, there are numerous organizations out there that you can donate not only your money to, but your time and passion to as well.
Charity Navigator is a Web site designed as a one-stop place for determining the best, and most reliable, to which one can monetarily donate to U.S. charities. Even though the site is designed from a financial standpoint, I recommend it to people who are looking for a reputable organization they can become involved with not only financially, but also in its local events by checking out the organization's Web site.
I had heard about PETA through the media, and so naturally it was my first choice in animals rights organizations, but when I realized that it didn't have a local branch or chapter in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area, I decided to research what other local organizations were around.
Another vital research tool I recommend is the ubiquitous Google. A quick search for "animal rights groups + Ohio," (in my case) using Google, led me to the organization, Mercy For Animals (MFA), an animal advocacy group based out of Columbus.
I immediately contacted Nathan Runkle, MFA's founder and executive director, about ways I could get involved with the group, and more importantly, how I could use my set of skills (i.e., my journalism degree) in helping get its message out.
After attending a few events, and talking to Runkle about my serious interests of volunteering on a permanent basis, I was appointed as MFA's Cincinnati Regional Coordinator in August 2006, and eventually became contributing editor and writer for MFA's magazine Compassionate Living.
Oiling the Machine
So, you've decided on a cause that you are passionate about, and you've found an organization/group that reflects that cause, and you can't wait to join its rousing demonstration/rally/protest. Now what?
Well for starters, have a (detailed) game plan.
Most organizations typically just need more warm, able bodies in helping getting their message out at demonstrations, but a successful partnership is more like a well-oiled machine.
"Before attending a protest, it is a good idea to contact the individual or group organizing the event (especially if this is your first time working together.) Inquire about the start/end time of the event, exact location, dress code, if signs/banners will be provided and details on the issue being addressed at the demonstration," Runkle advises.
"Well-planned public protests have the potential of reaching millions of consumers and having a true impact," says Runkle.
There's usually a lot of preparation that goes into organizing a demonstration. As Regional Coordinator for MFA, I work closely with Runkle in putting a demonstration/protest together locally, as we did for the June 28, 2007, Kroger Shareholders Meeting demonstration, in Cincinnati, OH.
Since the ultimate goal of a demonstration is to bring awareness to a particular cause, there is no better way to do so than by alerting the media via detailed press releases in hopes of getting as many print, TV and radio outlets to cover the demonstration.
Also key is "guerilla" advertising, such as member email blasts, posting of fliers throughout the city, and rallying local group members to participate.
A media spokesperson is also designated for the demonstration. Runkle typically fills this role for MFA. The media spokesperson ideally should be knowledgeable about the purpose of the demonstration, and be prepared to answer tough media questions with professionalism and grace.
The media spokesperson should also be armed with copies of the press release, literature about the cause behind the demonstration, and BETA tapes of appropriate issue-related footage (such as undercover footage of animal cruelty at a certain company.)
So you have an agenda for the next demonstration you'll be attending, but what really goes on at one of these things?
A typical MFA demonstration/protest involves a dozen members peacefully and silently demonstrating on a weekday, during high traffic times such as lunchtime, in a central location, such as a town square, or outside an establishment that supports animal cruelty (such as KFC, Ringling Bros. Circus, P&G, or a fur salon.)
"Once supporters have arrived we designate roles, including activists to hold the banners, distribute literature, hold signs, and take pictures," says Runkle.
Click here to see how the Mercy For Animals demonstration/protest brought awareness to Kroger's mistreatment of animals in its food production. (Please note that graphics and video footage may be disturbing to some.)
The demonstration usually ends at the designated time, and attendees are free to either go about their merry way or network with other demonstration participants.
Show that Passion!
So if you have a passion, or a cause that you strongly believe in, take advantage of the First Amendment right to be part of a group and organization that shares your belief, and then hit the streets in peaceful demonstration, sharing the passion that burns within you!
"After all, good intentions means little. Action means everything," Runkle believes.
Click the play button below to see a collection of media coverage and interviews chronicling the notoriety and success of Mercy For Animals, presented at its August 31st, 2007 fundraising benefit in Columbus, OH. (Please note that graphics and video may be disturbing to some).
Visit VegOhio.com to find other local animal rights organizations and their demonstrations with which to get involved.
Photo: Neysa Ruhl Photography