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Tuesday, April 4, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 125

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Activism isn't dead, just under-publicized

Brandon Moeller

Maybe these aren't such placid times after all. As a college student, I used to feel cheated because it seemed to me that social activism had died after the 60s flower children had grown up.

Yet the more I read, the more I walk outside my own room, the more I live in this society, the more I realize that important issues still exist that demand people to respond.

I realize that many college students, especially at commuter schools like UH, could care less about marches and protests that utilize our First Amendment right to peaceably assemble. Fine, to each his own. But I'm sure that if more people were educated about the issues that these protest activities revolve around, they would not stand by idly.

Some students have equated their involvement in Jesse Jackson's recent march from Texas Southern University to UH as their first encounter with the Civil Rights Movement. Congratulations to those who participated: A clear message was sent to those who are in charge of allocating the state's funds. Although I don't agree with Jackson's factual findings, mainly due to a Daily Cougar news story that ran recently ("March on UH confronts funding issues," March 20), I do applaud students coming together to peacefully protest what they feel is injustice.

Marble-sized rubber pellets weren't used to disperse Jackson's followers. But then again, Jackson didn't smash the windows of the local Starbucks Coffee. At the World Trade Organization's December meeting in Seattle, some extreme activists went so far as to destroy anything and everything corporate around them. Some activists were so out of control that order had to be established, so the cops were called into action with their helmets, boots, pepper gas and rubber bullets.

Many believe that protesters should always act peacefully. Yet if it weren't for the chaos that was exhibited on the streets of Seattle, the activists wouldn't have been given as much press coverage. At least not without anarchists wielding M-80 firecrackers, hammers and spray paint; without the police responding to the melee with concussion grenades; and without the National Guard being called in after Seattle Mayor Paul Schell established a "protest-free" zone that included the convention center and major hotels. Now that's a story.

When Martin Luther King Jr. helped organize peaceful, non-violent sit-ins in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963, the press didn't give extensive coverage to the ordeal -- until children were allowed to participate in the protests. As soon as the children were attacked by the same police dogs and high-pressured fire hoses that were used on the adults, the story in Birmingham became a more photogenic opportunity for reporters and photographers to capture the true essence of the struggle against segregation and inequality.

So I guess the only way for protesters to get a lot of press is to either evoke a lot of violence, anger and destruction, or to use the nation's youth as a symbol of the unity of the cause.

Or they could dress up as giant tampons. That's what some female protesters did in response to a soon-to-be-imposed 10 percent Goods and Services Tax in Australia -- which offers exemptions for "necessary" items such as sunscreen, male and female personal lubricants, incontinence pads and condoms -- but not feminine hygiene products.

Women's activist Rhonda Ellis was quoted in the Boston Globe as saying, "So sex is a necessity, and periods a luxury?" When Ellis transformed herself into Tanya Tampon, the media took notice. When women showered Prime Minister John Howard and his aides with red-dye-soaked tampons, the media reported on it. And when more than 100 red-caped women who called themselves "The Menstrual Avengers" tossed tampons on the offices of the media magnate in Sydney, people took notice.

Activism still exists in many unique forms. Violence, the inclusion of people of all ages and radical imagery are ways to get the press to notice. If protesters are creative enough, they'll make the ten o'clock news without resorting to violence.

Moeller, a sophomore communication major, 
can be reached at brandonmoeller@hotmail.com.

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