In an earlier post, I wrote about the importance of the intersection of cultural and institutional factors in understanding the cross-national politics of marriage equality. One important part of this context is attitudinal shifts regarding gay marriage. According to a PEW survey, American public opinion has moved markedly in support of gay marriage in the four years since California’s Proposition 8. Recent U.S. Supreme Court hearings have brought out demonstrators on both sides of the debate. On a CNN international report (March 27, 2013), one opponent of gay marriage proclaimed that this is an issue for the people, not the court. According to Jeff Toobin of CNN, conservative justices have recognized the “growing popularity” of gay marriage and have argued in favor of using the democratic process (especially at the state level) rather than the non-elected judiciary. Continue reading
Tag Archives: activists
A year ago, I wrote a couple of posts about the growing tensions between environmental activists and the Conservative government in Canada, particularly with regards to the Gateway and Keystone oil pipelines. The Conservative government portrayed environmental activists and organizations as radical and in many ways, depicted campaigns against the pipeline as coming from outside of Canada backed by foreign interests. But over the course of 2012, environmental issues became less salient with the public and garnered less attention from the media. Then, in a November 2012 Globe and Mail article, it was suggested that a recent Natural Resources Canada study finding that the chemical in the oil sands is not more corrosive than other oil, is a “major strike against a key argument made by opponents of pipelines.” With a lack of interest, apparently damning evidence against environmental activists, and determination on the part of the government to continue resource development (including the oil sands project), things were not looking good for environmental activists. The Conservative government has continued to champion the pipeline and has called for more proposals for future natural resource development.
Social movement scholars have often struggled with operationalizing movement success and/or failure, and rightfully so. What may be considered a failure to scholars may be perceived as success to activists. In addition, movements are not monoliths and therefore success for some activists or for some groups, may not be relevant to other aspects of a movement. Finally, talking about success and failure also rests on the assumption that we know about the intentions of movement actors – that there are clearly stated and known objectives and that the decisions actors make are in reference to achieving those goals and objectives. Often, we can only speculate about motivations and intent; presumably success can also come about unintentionally. I have written about how the Occupy movement has shifted the spotlight to scholars’ understanding of movement outcomes, but I suggest that the Tea Party also requires us to think about how we define movement success and failure. Continue reading
A new film by Melody Weinstein, Michael T. Heaney, and Marco Roldán explores what turns ordinary citizens into activists. Through interviews and ethnographic-style coverage of the peace movement between June 2008 and March 2010, the film explores the risks, process, and joys of activism. Heaney brings his years of social movement scholarship on the peace movement, on display in an earlier Essay Dialogue, to the screen in this impressive documentary.
I was immediately drawn into the film as it opens with shots of veterans and miltiary famileis I interviewed in the peace movement, including Gold Star Father Carlos Arredondo, Retired Let. Col. Anne Wright, and Iraq veteran Geoff Millard. Although Americans with military connections get a decent share of coverage, the film covers the wide spectrum of activists invovled in the many peace movement organizations. Interspersed with the new are snipets of classic peace movement speeches from Martin Luther King, Jr. and songs such as “War!”
The Québec provincial election is a few days away and despite an ongoing conversation about holding a truce, student activists continued their use of disruptive tactics (most recently at the Université de Montréal). Student mobilization has become a central feature of the 2012 provincial election. But, who stands to benefit most from student protest?
Leaders in the student movement have sought to use the election to address grievances regarding tuition increases (although, as I have written in a previous blog and as others have noted, it is unclear whether tuition is truly driving mobilization or whether it triggered underlying discontent). The more militant organization, CLASSE, as well as other movement figures has been associated with the nationalist Parti Québécois (PQ). Indeed, Pauline Marois, leader of the PQ brought in activist leader Léo Bureau-Blouin as a PQ candidate in a district north of Montreal. Student activists presumably see a PQ electoral victory as a potential victory of their own as Marois proclaimed that the PQ will cancel any tuition increases within its first 100 days in office. It is not surprising then that student protesters have sought to mobilize particularly in districts where they believe the youth vote will make the difference in defeating the Liberal Party and Premier Jean Charest.
Coverage of the Pussy Riot trial has been widespread. For those unfamiliar, the punk band/performance artists lip sank an original “punk prayer” entitled “Mother Mary, chase Putin out” from the alters of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. Police arrested three of the five performing members in the days that followed and they have been imprisoned ever since. Their trial was nothing short of a judicial farce leaving many observers to describe the formality (and consequential sentencing) as “medieval.” The three members on trial were found guilty of “hooliganism to incite religious hatred” and will remain in prison for an additional nineteen months. While the sentence surprises no one familiar with the Russian judicial system, what comes next?
Summers in Montreal usually mean festivals; whether Just for Laughs or the Jazz Fest. But, with an impending election, Montrealers this summer are wondering whether student protests will influence the upcoming Québec provincial election. Protests were first activated by the threat of a tuition hike, but quickly became about something bigger (see my May 10th post). One development has been the so-called radicalization of the protests, particularly organizations like CLASSE, accused of undermining negotiations with the government and as being aligned with the current opposition party, the sovereigntist Parti Québécois. It became clear, fairly early on, that the greatest obstacle for student protesters was convincing Quebeckers that the protests were more than just about tuition, that they are symptomatic of a bigger socio-structural problem, and that disruption is necessary (see my May 25th post). Unfortunately for protesters, public opinion has not been on their side. Continue reading
At the Working-Class Studies conference last weekend, I heard an amazing dialogue about class, race and movement-building by five progressive journalists and activist scholars: Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now!, Frances Fox Piven, Bill Fletcher Jr. of Blackcommentator.com, and former New York Times columnist Bob Herbert of Demos, with conference organizer Michael Zweig, author of The Working Class Majority moderating.
I was struck by how openly they disagreed with each other in front of us 200 listeners, by how passionate all five of them are about creating a more just society, and by what vast depth of experience they brought to the panel. Here are some highlights: Continue reading
Have, as Montreal Gazette reporter Karen Seidman suggests, radicals hijacked the conflict over tuition increases in Québec?
In my previous post, I suggested that recent student protests in Montreal were more than just about tuition increases, and that tuition increases served as a triggering event that activated some other latent, longstanding grievances. In a recent May 16th article in the Montreal Gazette, Peggy Curran seems to agree with that assessment and writes that “it was clear the battle against tuition hikes had been transformed into the revolutionary cry of a lost generation. Toss a little anarchist mayhem into the mix, and you get a cocktail called pandemonium.” According to Curran, student mobilization is partially explained by the broader context of social unrest and breakdown characterized by economic uncertainty and high unemployment. But in addition to social unrest, Curran suggests a certain kind of intergenerational conflict between today’s students and baby-boomers – what she calls “boomerhate.” Continue reading
A few weeks ago, students in Montreal protested against the tuition increase proposed by the Québec government. But might there me more to this student mobilization than simply a protest against a fairly small (particularly by US standards) increase in tuition? A series of recent newspaper articles allude to this possibility by calling into question “the real” nature of, or motivation for, student mobilization.
Although the government and student leaders called a truce, protest, which included vandalism, continued. An April 26th Globe and Mail article by Alexander Panetta claims that “the latest events prompted questions about whether the student leaders actually control the movement they spearheaded.” CLASSE, which is considered a hard-line student group, was excluded from negotiations with the government because they continued to promote protest despite the education minister’s ultimatum. CLASSE’s spokesperson claims that the government really had no intention of negotiating which is why they have continued to promote the use of disruptive tactics. Continue reading