Never underestimate the power of small groups, and never underestimate the power of symbols.
As some readers may be aware, The Seminal staff attended September 15’s antiwar march dressed in professional attire. We also distributed pamphlets that included two of our recent articles: one explaining our dress code, and one stating our belief that the progressive community needs to generate its own strategies for extricating the US from Iraq.
We were four strong. But the response that we got, especially from other protesters, was incredible. First, no one criticized us or made any negative comments. Though many were skeptical, skepticism quickly turned to curiosity or approval after we said the words “professionalism” and “seriousness,” and many people walked away from us only to stop a few feet away, deeply absorbed as they read our pamplets. Second, people took us seriously. People complimented us on our ideas, made way when we walked by, and spoke to us more politely than they would have had we been dressed in casual clothing. Third, we could feel ourselves challenging stereotypes. The counter-protesters on the side of the streets looked at us strangely; one woman whose sign read “hippies smell” was clearly perplexed. Fourth, our appearance sparked several interesting conversations with strangers, drawing out larger issues of organization and discipline at protests.
Based on the response we received as four people, we are ready and excited to try the tactic again in stronger numbers. We feel confident that a coordinate group of ten people, all dressed in professional attire, would present a striking visual image, and that a hundred or more would literally cause jaws to drop - and perhaps attract serious media attention as well. Given that we are fully prepared to express the goals of the antiwar movement (as we see them) in an articulate and forceful manner, camera time would be invaluable.
The idea of dressing in professional attire is neither original nor complicated. In fact, it is the tactic’s simplicity and directness that gives it power. We plan to continue using it and expanding upon it as we attend further peace demonstrations. Anyone interested in lending their support should contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, if you like this tactic, we encourage you to use it on your own. As our experience demonstrated (both to us and to other people), even on a small scale it can be surprisingly effective.