As word spread of the planned Black Lives Matter protest at the Mall of America this Saturday, critics came out of the woodwork to decry the gall of these demonstrators. How dare they disrupt my last-minute Christmas shopping with something that I personally don't care about? What gives them the right to inconvenience the hardworking masses?
The same exasperation sprung up when protesters decided to shut down 35W. Regular citizens deserve to get to work, the logic goes -- to get to the store, to get on with their lives without such intrusive inconvenience. See also: Mall of America Braces for Huge Black Lives Matter Protest on Saturday
So we reached out to a few leaders in the burgeoning movement to hold police accountable for killing black people and asked them: What gives you the right?
"I think that it's unfortunate some folks' lives were disrupted, but it's also true that any meaningful change in this country has been gained through disruption," says Neighborhoods Organizing for Change Executive Director Anthony Newby.
Newby pointed out that every social justice movement in American history only achieved reform through disruption. He ticked off the causes: slavery, child labor laws, unionizing, woman's suffrage, Jim Crow, and on and on.
Our nation has traditionally been resistant to change, and history has shown change comes only after a lot of stomping and shouting. That might make you late for work, or annoy you during a shopping trip, but that's the cost of living in a democracy.
"There are tons of families whose entire lives are disrupted when children are killed or beaten by police," says Michael McDowell with Black Lives Matter. "And so sitting in traffic for an hour to hear about the countless bodies that are piling up, disproportionately, because of this broken system, I don't think their inconvenience outweighs our message."
McDowell still plans to stage a rally in the rotunda at the Mall of America this Saturday, despite the Mall's threats of arrests.
"We want people to sit and hear our message. We're trying to raise awareness, and in order to do that, in order for this movement to have meaning, people are going to have to be inconvenienced."
"People are tired of minorities getting killed indiscriminately in the streets, and if it takes some disruption and some level of making America uncomfortable to get it, well, we're all in favor of it," adds Newby.
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