Ten Things to Start a Movement

Ten Things to Start a Movement

Let’s use the passion seen in Wisconsin and all over America in the past few months to create a culture of protest here in the US.


In Wisconsin we saw a return to the streets, young and old protesting side by side. The philosophies and techniques deployed by organizers there exposed the right’s assault on unions and progressive institutions that have made Wisconsin great. Carl Gibson, co-founder of US Uncut, a decentralized grassroots movement inspired by Johann Hari’s reporting in The Nation, wants to see a return to a culture of protest. “All you need is a laptop, a cell phone and five friends,” says Gibson on how to start a local chapter of US Uncut, which exposes corporate tax cheats and resists unfair public service cuts. He does, however, believe that more tools are needed to sustain the movement. So, combining the Uncut organizing model with the philosophy of Gene Sharp (The Albert Einstein Institution), whose ideas helped inspire the revolutionaries who toppled Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship in Egypt, here are ten things to start and sustain a movement built on the spirit of Wisconsin. To learn more about the current state of Wisconsin, read Anne McClintock’s analysis and John Nichols’s reporting.

1 Before you start rallying in the street, understand exactly what you are fighting for or against, so you can plan the best method of protest. Read Gene Sharp’s Self-Liberation: A Guide to Strategic Planning for Action to End a Dictatorship or Other Oppression. Use the tools on US Uncut to get started.

2 Learn about the situation we are in now. Read Nicholas Shaxson’s Treasure Islands: Uncovering the Damage of Offshore Banking and Tax Havens (treasureislands.org). Read Walter Mosley’s Twelve Steps Toward Political Revelation.

3 Don’t be a slave to technology. Social media should be only one of many communication tools. Connect online and on-land strategies to make sure they augment each other. Allison Fine, a senior fellow at Demos, writes about the intersection of social media and social change. Go to her blog, allisonfine.com, for advice and updates on using technology effectively.

4 Find five friends who are media savvy, technologically savvy, camera savvy, research savvy and local-organization savvy. Check out the organizing tools on Wellstone for advice on building an action plan.

5 Remember that police officers are part of the status quo you are rebelling against, so they may consider your protest threatening. Know your rights. Read ACLU’s guide on civil disobedience.

6 Be creative about your planned action. You don’t have to stage a full-blown protest to make a difference. Every time someone speaks out in a Bank of America, they have to report it. Imagine what would happen if they got 100 individual protests in one day! To get inspiration for more creative action, go to Yes Lab, the site of the Yes Men, who target “leaders and big corporations who put profits ahead of everything else.” Go to US Uncut’s website to publicize your action.

7 Learn how to leverage social media stories to connect with the mainstream. Tape and photograph your protest and send it to your local media. To find the right outlet go to Newspapers.com and Spark Action. US Uncut invites you to send pictures and videos of your action. Learn how to talk to interviewers. Go to “Other Resources.”

8 Keep the momentum going. Start a website or a blog and update it regularly.

9 Link with other organizations. Share ideas and attend leadership-building workshops. Go to People For The American Way or Sojustlead.org to check out training workshops. Communicate and assist other regional actions. Work with your state’s Citizen Action group and check out the ones in New York and Wisconsin.

10 All of us can’t organize or participate in protest all the time. But there are alternatives. Read Gene Sharp’s The Politics of Nonviolent Action for 198 specific alternatives. Support the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act. Support the Move Your Money Project to end the monopoly that too-big-to-fail banks have on the economy.

Other Things: Check out Showdown in America’s latest action where they storm the ‘Chase’ castle! Go to National People’s Action for training ideas and to join their network in your state.

Conceived by Walter Mosley, with research by Rae Gomes
“Ten Things” is a monthly feature. Readers who wish to submit additions to recent Ten Things or tell us their own Ten Things ideas should use this form.

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