From March 8-11, 26 cyclists will pedal from Sandy Hook, Connecticut to Washington DC, and their route will take them through my county. There is a rally planned in Doylestown for this Sunday to protest. I gave some thought about whether or not I will attend, but I am of mixed feelings on the best way to deal with this situation, and I have some reservations about the organizers.
One the one hand, the Sandy Hook riders don’t seem to be getting much attention. They currently rank 5063 “likes” on Facebook, with 632 “talking about this.” Hardly a movement. They also aren’t really pulling down much news coverage, at least as of now. There does come a point where all you’re accomplishing by protesting is helping them make a story and get in the news, when they might otherwise be ignored.
On the other hand, I also think they shouldn’t ever be allowed to occupy the field without being opposed if our side still retains the energy for opposition. They should know they are wading into controversy, and that there are fellow citizens who oppose their political agenda. They shouldn’t be able to get away with making their positions look non-controversial, or trying to pass off an obvious political statement as a memorial ride.
So I’m torn on whether a counter-protest is even the right tactic at all, but if protesting is the right thing, the deciding factor turns on what is the best protesting tactic. In my opinion passive opposition is the way to go here. I don’t think passive opposition is always the correct tactic, but I think it is in this particular circumstance it is. The group organizing this protest is Concerned Gun Owners of PA (formerly Concerned Gun Owners of Bucks County) who are not known for using passive tactics. They are better known for armed demonstration combined with aggressive, in-your-face tactics.
CGOBC sprung up right after Sandy Hook, and I attended several of their meetings and rallies. We attended a few meetings with some of their leaders. The group ended up splitting into two organizations last year, largely due to disagreement about tactics. I soured on CGOBC after the mother’s day rally, especially when they started to generate negative headlines having one of their leaders photographed screaming in the face of a little old lady. When you’re in a position of strength, as we are now, I think it’s best to behave as if you’re in a position of strength. Passive protest is the right tactic in this circumstance. Just be seen, and have someone ready to speak to the media when they come around. Don’t let the headline become armed protesters show up to intimidate a memorial ride. Unfortunately, CGOPA hasn’t shown (to me, at least) that they are good at using wise tactics.