Virtually Conflicted

NYC WRL online meeting

NYC WRL on Zoom

There’s something to be said for holding a meeting online. Our NYC War Resisters League group usually meets in Manhattan every month or so. We’re a small group with meetings ranging from 6 to 12 people, but at our virtual meeting to plan a virtual April 15th action, 15 people joined, most by video and a few by phone. It was quite a successful meeting with a lot of enthusiasm for virtual tax day protests — and a good deal of hope that we could be out in the streets by July 15.

tax day 2020

Virtual tax day photos on NWTRCC’s Facebook page.

Post-April 15 I’m thinking about the value of virtual protest and having trouble coming up with anything more than:

  • it was something to do
  • better than nothing
  • got some good photos
  • kind of fun to look online to see the latest photos – and even one video
  • a few surprises in who “liked” the photos: a stray relative or co-worker one didn’t expect

As opposed to being out in public — whether standing at a vigil, risking arrest, hanging banners, or handing out flyers outside the IRS or a post office, at a busy intersection, above a highway, or standing along a busy street — which offers:

  • Potential to reach a greater cross-section of people
  • Leafletting opportunities
  • Good photos which can also be shared virtually
  • Potentially surprising interactions – whether confrontational or supportive
  • Getting in the face of authority
  • Media coverage, especially in local media even with small actions
  • Comradery
  • Breaking isolation of individual act of war tax resistance
  • A feeling of exhilaration afterwards

Feel free to add to (or take issue with) those lists in the comment section.

Those of us who like doing street protest do feel frustrated these days, although there are some great actions taking place. Today, April 24, “Democracy Now!” showed some footage of a “Trump Lies, People Die” action in DC outside the White House and in front of Trump International Hotel (yeah, the one asking for a break on the cost of their lease). Sponsored by the Center for Popular Democracy, with signs on cars circling and others on the sidewalk ,the group placed body bags in front of the hotel  with a spokesperson demanding more PPE, more testing, and real leadership. Good action and kudos to them (some good footage on this site)!

Still, I try to remind myself that we protest every day with our refusal to pay war taxes. Even if we aren’t in the street, we do get the government’s attention, if only by the fact that the IRS has us on their collection list.

As with any of these actions, if we had tens of thousands in our network, instead of the small numbers that we do, we would get more attention with any of our efforts. Reminds me of a favorite Thoreau quote, despite the narrow gender reference:

“If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood.”

— Post by Ruth Benn

5 thoughts on “Virtually Conflicted”

  1. Chrissy Kirchhoefer says:

    Great article Ruth! You raise a lot of good questions that I have been pondering as well about moving forward. I look forward to hearing others thoughts.

  2. Sue Barnhart says:

    I always love reading your posts Ruth. I do miss the big protests, a small group of us held up some signs on earth day, but we were expecting before the pandemic a crowd of thousands. And not being at the Post
    Office for tax day for the first time in 35 years was rough. I guess learning to zoom, face time , etzi and go to meeting has been good for my old brain but I miss face to face meetings with hugs and seeing old friends at protests, as well as a chance to do outreach to a larger cross section of folks.

  3. Ginny Schneider says:

    I think protesting in cars would work and be at least public. In smaller towns, it could make quite a splash.

  4. MIKE LEVINSON says:

    I really miss the live gatherings and meetings with live people, they are often lively encounters, especially for somebody like myself who has felt quite isolated from my community of resistance for quite some time now. But this past week I experienced something really special: I participated in a ZOOM meeting via my laptop computer, with other nonviolent activists, and it was really thrilling! Perhaps it would not have been so thrilling if I had been doing it for some time, but what made it so refreshing is that for the first time in a very long while I had the opportunity to actually see other people’s face alive, not just still photos or video shots, and I got to hear their voices, and hear them speaking extemporaneously, which is something that doesn’t really happen when one communicates via email, facebook or texting. It was a delight, just like a family reunion, like meeting these activist friends again after a long separation. So it wasn’t so bad, and it gave me a booster shot, and I am grateful. BUT STILL…I wait impatiently waiting to stand next to folks again and chant, and march, and sing, and sit down, and do things, or do nothing. I remember a protest action sponsored by Majority Report back in the 1970s, a protest against the anti-vagrancy laws in New York City which had been enforced to clear the Times Square area of undesirable people. The Loiter-In was a success, and the poster inviting participants said, “Come to Times Square and Do Nothing!” There was even a training session offered to teach people how to loiter. The struggle goes on at many different levels! Hi Ho!!!

  5. Terry Miller says:

    Great article!! I believe your Mom would be equally proud of your convictions and your writing skill.

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