Disrupt the Machine: A lesson from the airports

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No doubt you spent a portion of your weekend watching massive protests clogging the nation’s airports, inciting several arrests in Charlotte and huge turnout at RDU on Sunday. The victories of the weekend — including court injunctions against part of the Trump regime’s #MuslimBan and more than $25 million donated to the ACLU — are not total, but they’re impressive and provide some important lessons.

Here are three victories and takeaways from the airport actions:

First, the ability to respond rapidly to the regime’s actions shows the strength of communication, level of focus and deep feelings of solidarity. Things are moving quickly, and the rapid mobilization of thousands at JFK airport is exactly the sort of swift action that the resistance will need to be successful.

Second, the location was tactically brilliant. While mobilizations in large urban metros — especially the Capitol — are important as a show of strength and a space to foster unity and hope, the decision to bring the protests to the airports themselves is an uncommon and unexpected choice. It’s visually compelling, which helps broaden media coverage, and it brings the resistance right up to the gears of power rather than a more distant protest from a public park.

Third, the airport protesters gummed up the works. They blocked airport access and made themselves impossible to ignore. Writing to and calling your representatives is important — please keep doing that — but those missives can be tuned out. A rally in a public square is easier to ignore than these airport demonstrations, which also weren’t bound by set times and thus were more unpredictable.

Taking the fight directly to the source and getting in the way can have a tremendous impact. Yes, get in the streets (as hundreds of people did in downtown Greensboro on Jan. 26 in response to the regime’s attack on immigrants and refugees) but also think about where those protests can have the greatest effect.

It’s good symbolism, and it’s great strategy. You can figure out the specifics of where and when — maybe at Sheriff BJ Barnes’ Greensboro office or US Sen. Richard Burr’s Winston-Salem one — but we’ll leave that to you.

We will offer this from Mario Savio, a leader of the 1960s Berkeley Free Speech Movement, that seems particularly germane. He delivered an impassioned plea (that you can watch online) where he extolled in part:

“There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”