Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Counterproductive Protest?

I was on my way to another day at Capitol Hill. On any given day, I can expect to see a few protesters on the street, telling anyone who will listen about the need to stop the War in Iraq or revoke Roe vs. Wade. But on April 10, I came across a protest that really caught my attention.

I mean, it is hard to miss a line of 100 dump trucks circling the U.S. Capitol honking their horns as obnoxiously as possible. The trucks held up traffic and exposed hundreds of tourists to excessive noise pollution. The truckers were protesting the raising costs of diesel fuel. They are upset because they are given a fixed amount from their respective companies to spend on gas, so when the prices keep rising, they have to make up for it out of their pockets.

I might just be bitter because the protest made it difficult to cross Constitution Avenue on Tuesday afternoon, and my ears are still ringing from all that honking. But I do not think this was the most effective example of nonviolent protest. I hate to think about all the gas the truck drivers wasted by circling the U.S. Capitol a number of times. I think it went against their argument that they were really concerned about the price of gas.

I think a better form of protest for their cause would have been to organize all the truckers to stop driving for a day, like they did in Syracuse. This would show that they were serious about their cause, and it would make more sense in terms of proving that conserving gas is important to them.


Fitz Lufkin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
joseph gavronsky said...

wow how amusing! 100 dump trucks circling the capitol! i agree that it seems counter productive for the protestors to waste all that gas when expensive gas prices are what they are protesting. but then again how many people noticed when the dump trucks stay parked? i know it is true that the people whose trash was supposed to be picked up noticed. but what about the politicians on the hill? though i do not understand economics very well, i could see that the parked dump trucks could cause a ripple effect in which the businesses (who have piles of trash) would be troubled and so on. still, i think there must be a way to protest that would not waste gas, but at the same time, bring the diesel problem more attention. oh yeah and this is not just a dump truck problem but a problem for all the rigs that use diesel. i think it would help if they worked together. if all the truckers parked their trucks, i think that would be effective. it seems like the truck drivers need to develop organizational strength and come together.

Isabella said...

I agree that the protest was hypocritical. It seems obvious that if you are going to protest rising gas prices, maybe you shouldn't drive your gas guzzling trucks around in circles. With that said though, I think that the protest itself really grabbed people's attention! Whether you approached the situation with annoyance or confusion, the issue is still being talked about and that's the most important aim.

Brittney said...

Yeah, I see what you mean- why would you waste gas if you are protesting against the expense of rising gas prices? I'm not sure if the truckers would have been willing to stop driving though because they would lose out on their earnings for that day and it could be difficult to coordinate all truck drivers to stop driving(similar to the problem with the DC cab drivers' protest). I am not sure of what a better alternative would be- maybe draping a sign along the side of the truck which would state a phrase regarding the issue. But as Isabella commented, at least got everyone's attention.

B Palmer said...

I think was an effective protest, because the truck drivers seem to be making the point that despite the fact that they are paying for their numerous circles out of their own pocket, they still are willing to protest because the issue is that important to them. However, I think that they picked the wrong group to protest against. The drivers are reacting to the fact that they are under-compensated for their work, according to an article about the protest. The article stated that drivers in Philadelphia make $100 an hour, while these drivers make $55. I think it would have been more effective to organize a protest against the companies that hired them, instead of making a loud, general statement that caught people’s attention, but confused them.
Here is the article I read about it:

Robert Wiese said...

That is great! Incredibly ironic on the part of the truck drivers to waste gas to get their point across. What is really funny, and what should also be considered is that not everyone probably picked up on the hypocrisy. Rich, you are probably in the top percent of the intelligence distribution of America (for any of you wondering, I am not assuming this only because he is a Georgetown student - I also have the privilege of knowing Rich and experiencing his genius first hand as he was my boss last semester). The fact is that plenty of people were probably too focused on the spectacle which the protest caused to truly ponder the gas- efficiency of the protest. In some cases, the more attention you can grab the better, and I feel like this may have been one of those moments. Also, Americans would probably be likely to side with the truck drivers, as the recent skyrocket in gas prices have been affecting anyone who drives on a regular basis. Overall, the protest may have been a bit hypocritical, but probably did just what the truck drivers wanted.

Robert Wiese said...

My bad about the name mix-up Colleen. I misread this as Rich's post. I don't know you as well as Rich, but were I a betting man, I would gamble that you also rank right beside him in the upper echelons of our nation's intelligence distribution.

Colleen Reding said...

Thanks for your comment, Robert! While I am not sure how effective the protest was, I have to say how privileged I feel to live in DC where it is not too out of the ordinary to witness a protest like this on a daily basis.

Just today, when I was riding my bike home from the Capitol, I was able to witness another demonstration, one that really caught my attention and seemed to be more effective in my mind. It was called "Send Silence Packing." On the National Mall between the Washington Monument and the Capitol building, 1100 backpacks were spread out on the lawn. The demonstration was meant to create awareness about mental health issues and the fact that 1100 suicides took place this year on college campuses. I thought it was clever how they were able to use symbolism with the backpacks and also come up with the clever slogan of "Send Silence Packing." It was organized by Active Minds, and they arranged it by asking people to donate backpacks in memory of loved ones.

I was really impressed with this campaign and thought they did a much better job of getting their job across than the dump trucks protesting gas prices!