Introduction

Did someone forget to tell me it was protest Wednesday?

Did someone forget to tell me it was protest Wednesday?

Did you happen to notice an inordinate number of demonstrations on campus last Wednesday? I passed by at least five in the span of an hour. Was this a mandated day of protest? I tried to find confirmation of this online but my search came up with nothing. Two protests really stood out for me, though they were vastly different.

In front of Hart House was a 24-hour reading of the names of Holocaust victims. The man sitting behind the table reading names into a microphone in a sombre tone was obviously committed to the cause. As I approached Hart House, my first thought was, “oh no, not another annoying protester with a microphone”. But as I got closer to Hart House, I realized the man was reading names. The purpose of the demonstration dawned on me before I had a chance to read the sign. I stopped and listened for 10 minutes or so before rushing away to my tutorial, affected by the reader’s haunting voice and the names of victims still echoing in my head.

The next demonstration I came upon was in front of Robarts. The first was a silent protest. Coupled with this protest was a very non-silent protest, which was protesting the silent protest. Are you confused? I was. At first I couldn’t figure out why the silent protesters had an amplification system. Then I realized I was walking through not one but two simultaneous protests. Honestly, this just gave me a headache.

The woman’s voice blasting over the speakers was ear piercingly loud and garish. I am in no way taking sides here, but I will say this. The quiet reading of Holocaust victims’ names in front of Hart House had a large crowd quietly listening in unity to a sombre remembrance. In front of Robarts, pedestrians were practically running to get away from the super loud speakers and the blatant hostility.

There are tons of student activist groups on campus – lots of opportunities to get involved in a cause you feel passionate about. Ulife’s listing of recognized clubs includes quiet and not-so-quiet organizations for nearly every religious and political viewpoint out there.

When it comes to demonstrating on campus, according to Campus Police, demonstrations that occur on U of T property are under their jurisdiction and must comply with the regulations set forth by the Governing Council. The demonstrations that occur on campus but not on campus property, such as sidewalks, fall under the jurisdiction of the City of Toronto Police. Ultimately, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms deems it legal to protest peacefully. “Peace” seems to be the key idea here. A protest on campus must be peaceful and must not physically harass anyone.

The notion of noise as a physical harassment is obviously ahead of its time. I can honestly say that my ears were being physically harassed as I walked through the demonstration in front of Robarts. Where’s the justice for my ears?

I find it interesting that what holds true to one thing, usually holds true to another. The tactic of yelling at someone to get a point across, rarely works. Whether in dealing with your children, parents, or pets, being loud and waving your arms around by and large has little effect.

It would be nice if loud campus protesters realized that being noisy does not an effective protest make. I would enjoy more quiet protests. I am non-confrontational by nature. The truth is loud protests just make me uncomfortable. From the reaction of my fellow students hurrying by the demonstration in front of Robarts, I don’t think I’m alone.

-Lori

4 comments on “Did someone forget to tell me it was protest Wednesday?

  1. I’m pleading the fifth on this one Diane. The cause is kind of irrelevant and I don’t want to single any one group out. The point I was trying to make was that loud protesting can become background noise when it’s over the top. I think a lot of people just start to block it out as they walk past. From what I observed on campus last week, the quiet demonstrations seemed to hold a crowd’s attention far better than any of the loud ones I encountered.

  2. I thought the same thing as I approached the Robart’s protest – who has ever convinced anyone of anything by shouting and putting them on the defensive? But then when I saw the signs of the other people, and the hateful messages they were conveying, I felt really proud that the U of T student body wouldn’t stand for that and drowned them out. In general, I think you’re right – the quiet and poignant protests are the only effective ones – but that one day, I was really glad there were people to stand up against hate and ignorance.

  3. I agree that it is better to stand for something than nothing at all. But, the notion of hate runs both ways. There was not a lot of love being sent out from either side that day. The hostility was so thick, you could have cut it with a knife. Hositility does not invite people into a conversation. This is what a demonstration effectively is – a conversation. If the hostility limits the invitation to partake in the discussion, is it really effective?

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