Marches, Chants, and Pamphlets: Oh My! Whether you stop to see what the hubbub is about or keep going, protests have been regular sights around many Arizona cities for several years now. Between Occupy, Idle No More, migrant rights and other issues, people are engaged and in the streets. But can it change the world?
Marijuana marches have been going on for 30+ years across the country. In Arizona voters have passed medical marijuana 3 times, the first two dismantled by the legislature disregarding voters will and the most recent leading to regular arrests of growers, caregivers and clinics. Recently, groups like Phoenix NORML (National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws), Occupy Phoenix, and Camp 420 have been involved in a protest outside the downtown Phoenix police station of these arrests, have provided court support, been part of a national bus tour to view other states’ marijuana laws enforcement and tried to challenge myths regarding Marijuana use. At a Phoenix NORML movie screening, spokesperson Rain Baker pointed out that marijuana users are regular members of society and that this plant, found in nature, has exhaustively been shown to be safe. This year a ballot initiative seeks to legalize possession, something that might have been unthinkable without decades of work to challenge government propaganda about marijuana.
“It is important to let people know what’s happening in other states and have them tell their state legislators so they know it’s time to put things right and stop criminalizing a plant,” remarked Rain on the progress of marijuana law reform.
Animal rights activists have tried to change the public’s mind about eating meat from factory farms, and in some cases, eating meat at all. A group of animal rights activists seeking change has been present for years at Phoenix’s First Friday on Roosevelt Row, distributing Vegan Outreach leaflets and performing street theatre to call attention to the treatment of animals. These efforts are shown to have an effect. In a college campus survey, of the 403 surveyed students who received a Vegan Outreach booklet, 7 became fully vegan 197 had changed their diet to help animals. Activists have spread a message that hits several points: stories of animal abuse, human health effects of a high-meat diet, environmental effects of factory farming, as well as the alternative animal-free foods increasingly available. Meat consumption seems to be falling in the US, possibly due in part to these efforts. Beef consumption has gone down globally for about sixth consecutive years. The number of Vegans and Vegetarians in the US have continued to increase through these efforts, furthering a demand for vegan food products.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been a common target of regular protests and information campaigns. Many accuse the group of directly influencing state legislators to introduce pro-corporate legislation, through backdoor deals with companies who sponsor the legislators’ travel, food and hotel expenses. Occupy Phoenix and many other groups engaged in a large ALEC protest at Scottsdale Kierland Resort during a late 2011 meeting, with Occupies around the country joining in and following up with protests of the group and its corporate and legislative members. Common Cause began a letter writing campaign and pursued legal action against the group. The Center for Media and Democracy created a media and information campaign that made it easy to stay informed of ALEC’s activities. Ultimately dozens of corporations left ALEC, as did many state legislators.
Change is possible, as shown in efforts like these. Like a certain video game, what seems like a victory is often just the beginning of another harder battle. Due to citizens’ efforts many cities adopted resolutions against Corporate Personhood, restoring rights to the people and limiting corporate influence in elections. However, once a city like Los Angeles, Flagstaff, or Tucson has passed a resolution the battle becomes harder, with the need to call for change at the state level and eventually the federal government. Even this struggle is showing progress, with 15 states and a long list of cities having resolved to support it.
“Current theory puts the stars moving away from us at great speed down to the universe expanding. However, i am worried they may simply want to get away from us before we destroy them after we run out of groups to hate because they are slightly different and finish killing off the animals and polluting the planet till extinction. Change the world enough, maybe they,ll come back.” English translation of a drunk rant by Trace Beals, singer and guitarist of the Bathless Bastards