R2P: The Responsibility to Protest

I am often shocked when I hear talk about the Occupy Wall Street movement being un-American, or that these people out protesting in the streets should find more constructive things to do with their time. As if they are out there for the fun of it. You know, just didn't feel like going to work that day so they thought they'd go get arrested for walking on a public sidewalk. It constantly amazes me how easily people forget that this country was built on protest and revolution. It’s in our blood. From our initial fight for independence, to the Women’s Rights movement, the Civil Rights movement, the anti-war protests during the Vietnam era, and the list goes on. One of the most beautiful things about living in a democracy is that we have the freedom to protest. It is our right as citizens of this country to walk out into the street and shout at the top of our lungs when something is not right. In fact, I would argue that it is not only our right but our responsibility. Especially when that right is being threatened, as it is currently with the Occupy movement.

Throughout the past few years, the majority of my attention has been focused on civilian protection and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). R2P is a concept that was introduced by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, in an attempt to address the need for a stronger focus on civilian protection within the international community. The basic premise of this principle is that states have a responsibility to protect civilians from war crimes, genocide, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. If states are unable or unwilling to do so, it becomes the responsibility of the international community to step in and protect the civilians in harms way.

While what is happening in America right now is not on the same level as genocide, I think this R2P principle can be co-opted to reflect the responsiblity of the citizenry. There is something to be said for citizens understanding their responsibility to stand up and fight for each other when their own government is unable or unwilling to do so. The Mantle's own editor, Shaun Randol, touched on this responsibility in his call to participate in Occupy Wall Street. He spoke of our "moral responsibility to support OWS in as many ways as possible." A perfect example of this can be seen in the group of millionaires who met with politicians in Washington this week and asked for higher taxes. They believe they have a responbility to give back to a country that has enabled them to flourish. It is important to remember that democracy is not free. It comes with commitments and obligations. As citizens of this democracy, we have a Responsibility to Participate. As citizens of this democracy, we have a Responsibility to Protest.

On Wednesday, Keith Olbermann interviewed political activist Dorli Rainey. She has become a folk hero of sorts this week after she was pepper sprayed by the Seattle Police Department while participating in Occupy Seattle. I was already impressed that she was down at the protests at all, but after watching this video I think she has become my new hero. She embodies this sense of obligation, of moral responsibility to stand up and speak out. I encourage you to take a few minutes and listen to her story. It has most definitely inspired me to do more, and to find ways in which I can speak out even from afar.


Follow Corrie on Twitter @Corrie_Hulse

Occupy Wall Street, R2P