by NICK MITCHELL
After attending the protest of Trump’s visit to Drake’s campus, I was reminded as to why I find many protests to be useless and ineffectual. It all started out so well – people were gathering and listening to speakers who were the targets of the hate that Trump begets, as well as learning about places that they could dedicate their time to in direct, organized action.
However, as soon as Trump’s rally began and he stepped onto the stage, people at the protest immediately started to drift away from the speakers and instead flocked near the edge of the parking lot to watch Trump speak on the massive screen set up outside the Knapp Center. Instead of using this space of protest to listen to the voices of those who are commonly silenced and coming together to overcome the harmful rhetoric and ideology that Trump has been perpetuated by, the event was squandered, left in a state of shouting at a screen to a man who couldn’t care less that we were out there.
Trump is not the cause of any of the hateful behavior that surrounds him. He enables it, yes, but racism and xenophobia have existed for a long time in America and will continue to exist long after Trump. Focusing solely on Trump and not on the root causes of the issues is like finding a diseased tree, but instead of cutting down the whole tree only cutting off the branches. Those branches will eventually grow back, and they aren’t going to be any healthier than when they were removed.
If the protest had instead turned its back on Trump and focused on the speakers who told their stories and who were telling the crowd about more opportunities in which they could actually make a difference, then something could have started. Maybe the crowd would have looked further into these direct actions and made something of a difference in the community, which eventually spreads out and affects a wider population.
Instead, the pessimist in me realizes that almost every single person there will go home thinking that this was direct action, happy with the token gesture they’ve done. But if one of those people who has that mentality is reading this, then I am urging you: do something more. Protests are fine, but they don’t make the changes in the community like direct action does. Iowa CCI, Iowa Student Action, and Central Iowa DSA are all Des Moines local activist groups who seek to take action to better the Des Moines community. Iowa CCI has several campaigns ongoing including stopping racial profiling, fighting for clean water, and ending factory farming, among others.
Joining a group that does organized action like this, demanding specific, achievable change, is going to have a much larger impact on the community than a singular protest. If you’re looking for something even more local than the Des Moines area, Drake Comrades takes action directly on Drake’s campus and in the Drake neighborhood. Whether it’s advocating for tenant’s rights or asking for tampons to be provided for student’s, they seek to improve Drake through direct action.
If at any point while reading this, you felt offended or called out- good. That means you know you could be doing more, but aren’t. Take the next step. Do something to make your community better. Start work at the roots and then move up. Only by first improving our communities can we improve our nation.