Politics of Protest



Bannon speaks at The Citadel

by R.S. Marlow

So much politics, so little effectiveness. The anti-Steve Bannon protest held at The Citadel in Charleston, S.C. may have been the most boring protest I have ever attended.



A small group of protesters holds signs and shouts anti-fascism and anti-Nazi slogans at attendees of the Citadel Patriot Dinner honoring Steve Bannon, the controversial former aid to President Donald Trump and Breitbart editor.


Law enforcement, who I must point out were polite, friendly and helpful, had a substantial perimeter set up around the campus. There were no less than twenty-five officers at corners on my route to the event. Guessing there must have been at least one hundred officers on the perimeter to reroute traffic and direct people to the singular path to the protest area. “I hate do this to you,” said one officer with as he rerouted me to the longest route possible to where I was going. “That’s the only way in,” the officer continued as he pointed to the road that goes around the football stadium.

No one was allowed on campus without a pass. My fake press creds did me no good. The Citadel issued media passes, I did not apply.



I have to walk all the way around the stadium to get there?


Finally trekking the half mile path to get a few hundred feet, I made it to the protest area. There was about forty yards of entry space, which was heavily barricaded. If anything were to happen that might have been threatening to the police, the threat would be pre-kettled, along with everyone else.



Charleston Police and permitted press behind the barricades. 


The free speech zone, I guess you could call it, was in front of the entrance to the stadium I had to walk around to get there. The event organizer, Rev. Thomas Dixon, mayoral candidate for North Charleston, S.C., was speaking to a diverse crowd of about one hundred early arriving  protesters from the of the steps in front of the arena. The entrance to the building where the dinner was to take place was thirty yards away, behind barricades and street dotted with law enforcement and permitted media.

Again, I must note that no riot-looking police were visible.



A group of over two hundred listens to speakers at the rally.


As well-dressed dinner attendees began to arrive, a small group moved to the closest point to the dinner guests and began shouting slogans and insults at those waiting in line at the entrance to the dinner. One couple attending the dinner decided to meander over to the protesters and passive aggressively mock them. “Why are you afraid of us,” screeched the red-faced woman as her date looked smugly at the small group of protesters? Reminiscent of images of a group who mocked of Occupy Wall Street protesters from their office balcony.



Dinner attendees make their way to talk to the protesters. Anyone know who that is?


As the small group of vocal demonstrators got progressively louder, Rev. Dixon took exception and made his way towards them demanding they stop.



Rev. Thomas Dixon confronts protesters and directs them to the listen to the speakers.


“This is a permitted event,” said Rev. Dixon. “You have to follow the rules.” he asserted to the small group of vocal protesters that he was the one who permitted the event and they would have to follow his rules. One woman who supported Rev. Dixon called for the infighting to stop. Funny to me, the infighting was started by the Dixon camp.

By far the most entertaining speaker was Rep. Wendell Gilliard, who represents the local district in the statehouse. Which brings me to my point, was this a protest or a rally?

I’m going to have to call it a rally, and the organizers got mad when it was coopted by a protest. While much of the discussion was about Bannon and how The Citadel could have found a different speaker for the event, a common theme of the event was Rev. Dixon’s run for mayor. He was literally more concerned about his campaign than allowing any voice heard to anyone but those who are already with him. Although, he was quick to grant Bannon his free speech, just not protesters who might endanger his campaign.

I like talking to a mirror too.

Protests are supposed to make someone uncomfortable to make a point. Rallies are supposed to reinforce a narrative. If your protest is a rally, call it a rally.



Rep. Wendell Gilliard speaks to an attentive audience.