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Saturday, May 8, 2021

Frontline: Protesting remains an act of privilege

By Anna Edlund


Opinions of the Editorial Board

It was a rough weekend to travel north.

A portion of Interstate 5 near Lakeway Drive shut down Saturday, Feb. 11, as anti-Dakota Access Pipeline organizers blocked the northbound lanes of the freeway, protesting the controversial pipeline.

The protest resulted in a car jam a few miles long and delays for over an hour. One person was injured in a crash because of the block, and the Bellingham Herald reported a five-car crash at the rear of the jam.

Protesting is supposed to be an act of the people but what happens when it no longer benefits the people?

Protest and solidarity marches have drawn thousands to the streets in recent months over a number of issues. The most popular was the Women’s March the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, widely reported as the largest mass protest in history.

The organizers behind the march are already back in action. A “day without a woman,” a general strike, was announced on Twitter Monday, Feb. 6. The date of the strike remains to be determined, but it brings up some interesting issues.

The strike would likely include a mass walkout for women from work or school; every woman in America taking a day off to prove a point. Women from every walk of life, from CEOs to fast food workers, stepping out in defiance and protest. Sounds good, right?

Wrong. There is a profound amount of privilege that comes with the ability to protest. Having the ability to leave work and take to the streets isn’t something everyone can afford. The point of the protest falls flat for those whose circumstances don’t allow them to skip a day of responsibilities.

This isn’t a women’s strike, it is a women-who-can-afford-to strike. It will force women to choose between their day-to-day livelihoods and personal beliefs.

Many solidarity acts focus on inclusion. A protest that excludes working class women is going to exclude a massive portion of the population. Not to mention the millions of women who take care of their children full-time or who are students, who physically cannot leave their responsibilities.

Women’s walkouts have effectively happened, notably in Iceland, which has a long history of women’s strikes. In 2016, thousands of female workers left work to protest the pay gap between men and women. In 1975, a whopping 90 percent of women walked out of their duties for a single day.

But would this type of protest work in America, a country with a population a 1000 times greater?

This might seem like a different issue than the blocking of I-5 by anti-DAPL protesters. But both bring up serious concerns about the effects of large protests. The intent is good, but the effect is lost. If a national protest movement intends to be successful, it has to include everyone.

So how is this fixed? How can protests be inclusive, non-dangerous and effective? Honestly, there is no right answer. The more people are aware of these issues, the more prominent they become. Accept that protesting is not and cannot be for everyone, then move forward, together.



  1. Protesting is, indeed, an act of privilege.

    And those who are privileged enough to protest should still do it. Organizers should seek to make as many protests as they can inclusive to those without flexible schedules. This will not always be possible. As long as protesters and protest organizers are vocally aware of the privilege required to partake in the protest, I see no issue in moving forward. Using your privilege to support causes that benefit those without the privilege to protest is the definition of being an ally, isn’t it?


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