In order for protests to be effective, those involved in the movement must be willing to pay a heavy price for sharing their message with the public as well as those against whom they are protesting. Here, I offer a few examples of people who are willing to pay a heavy price for what they believe is the greater good.
1. Yesterday in Tibet two more Buddhist monks protested Chinese rule by setting themselves on fire. The two monks, Kunchok Woser and Lobsang Dawa carried out their protest in the Dzoge County in Sichuan Province. These two deaths bring the number of Tibetans to have set themselves on fire to 118 since February 2009.
2. “Armed with iron rods and rocks, dozens of masked members of the teachers’ union in Guerrero State attacked the local offices of the four major political parities” yesterday. In a series of violent protests, teachers set fire to buildings and threatened political leaders as proposed legislation could change teacher evaluations, training, and salary.
3. In the Guantánamo Bay prison, located in Cuba, 93 prisoners – all of whom are suspected terrorists – have decided to protest their detention with a hunger strike that is currently in its third month. They are protesting the fact that they have been held, in some cases for more than 10 years, without a trial and with no hopes of ever getting one. They have decided that to starve themselves to death is better than spending their lives in prison. The inmates are being kept alive through force tube feedings.
While not making judgments on the causes or the actions of these people, the larger point is that for protest to be effective in its means, ends, and its ability to spread a message, those involved need to truly believe in their cause, and be prepared to face the potential consequences of those actions. With this in mind, is it worth protesting graduation requirements? As we saw yesterday, students in Chicago thought the answer to that question was yes.