Friday, November 30, 2007

Rural Protests

Due to the isolation of many rural areas, I was wondering if protests manifest in different forms in rural areas compared to urban. Or if the focus or presentation to the community differs.

It might be necessary to separate those rural protests for the benefit of the local community compared to those rural protests that seek to generate media coverage, or reach a closer urban center. For this posting I will focus on labor and agrarian reform protests

One example I came across was the Mount Olive Pickle boycott in Mount Olive, North Carolina. The Farm Labor Organizing Committee's strategy was to convince consumers to no longer buy Mount Olive pickles as leverage so that the company increased wage and labor conditions. Protests occurred in Mount Olive, NC, a town of population of about 4,000. Additional protests occurred at local grocery stores throughout the state. The 5-year protest eventually gained success in the right-to-work state. Also notable is the claim as the first collective bargaining agreement for H2A guestworker employer in the state.

What is interesting is that one of the protests gathered union members from across the state to speak in the town itself. There was minimal media attention, and although it occurred near the "town center" not many residents came out of their houses or were present, except to attend the protest itself. The point is, these isolated protests must have a purpose of creating unity, or raising morale, rather than "getting the word out." (to some degree).

The Agrarian Reform movement in Nicaragua during the Somoza regime is of particular interest because although protesters resisted in "isolated" areas, by resisting landowners who attempted to regain "unused" land, the movement (and through political negotiations), they received media attention nationally. (And eventually internationally). Some 50,000 families were involved in the protests throughout rural Nicaragua. Maybe it was the mass, albeit isolated, movement that garnered so much attention (not to mention the violence of suppression in the rural areas).

I am not sure what the real answer is to the effects of rural protests and whether isolation decreases effectiveness, but I think it merits examination.

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