A Guide to Political Activism

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A Guide to Political Activism

Jeffery Doherty, Editor

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A new era was born when Donald Trump took office. A new government was installed that we can only hope will work for the best interests of the United States. Most of the people installed (and those who failed to be installed) to the cabinet, or as the White House staff, have either had questionable backgrounds or backgrounds that haven’t been fully explored.

In this new era one thing is clear; now is the time for political activism. As Editor in Chief of the school newspaper, in a farewell article, I will give a guide to being politically active and making your voice heard in the halls of power.

This article does not condone illegal activity. This article shows how young people can get involved in the politics that affect their everyday lives.

How to Begin Your Political Life

  • Know where you live

This seems like an odd step, but it is important. Knowing where you live, and who represents where you live, is key to seeing changes in your neighborhood, district, or city.

It’s as easy as a Google search, but people often don’t know who represents where they live.

For cities, there’s usually a city council that has members who control districts. These council members often control what public works, like parks or parking lots, are approved and built. For New York City, this is the link to the City Council, with a map of districts (vaguely like Google Maps) and the council member that represent a district.

Many small towns are often grouped under the control of one council, but always remember; if you have a mailbox, you have a government representative who represents the neighborhood or district you live in.

  • Know your representatives

Local representatives like City Council members are important, as they affect your everyday life. There are also state legislatures that act like Congress for a state. They’re also easy to search up. Just search for your state’s state legislature, and who is a part of it.

There aren’t only your local representatives, there are national representatives in Congress that also represent you. They represent you in the federal government. This site shows the members of Congress for each state (senators and representatives included).

There are states that vote solidly along party lines, so know where your state usually stands. For example, Texas has mostly Republican representatives that vote along with the ideals of the Republican party. Unless you live in Austin, then you are a liberal in a sea of conservatives.

Some state representatives shift as time passes, so see where they vote and if they are your representative, see if their vote is the vote you’d cast if you had the power.

  • Communicate

The only way your representatives will hear you is if you talk to them.

You can often get their office address, where you can snail mail them, or a phone number to call. Calling a representative is often more effective, as they want public input and are forced to stay on the phone with you in order to look good.

Representatives want to keep being elected, so they want to listen to your concerns and needs for your community. Your voice is a vote, and if they promise to satisfy your needs, you have to hold them accountable.

If things haven’t changed for the better after they’re elected, call them back, saying you’re angry with their poor performance, and threaten to vote for another candidate with a bunch of friends; it forces them to act if they want to be elected again.

National representatives have an office in Congress, and you can call them whenever Congress isn’t voting (they’d be away from the office then). If you didn’t like how they voted, or what they said on a committee, call them and complain. Ask them to change their ways.

How to Go Further

  • Go to protests

If there is an issue that is on your mind, as well as other people’s minds, and representatives aren’t doing anything, protest.

Protest Signs 101:

  1. Get some cardboard and get giant pieces of paper.
  2. Staple the paper to the cardboard and attached the cardboard to a long stick with rope or tape.
  3. Write a slogan or what you’re angry about on the sign and start marching.

Get a group of people who are also represented by the representative you don’t like, then set a day and time the protest will be. 8 AM to 3 PM are effective times to have protests during the day. Night time protests are tricky, because police like to ambush protest leaders with capture squads.

You can even make a Facebook event page and make it public so people can join the protest, increasing your number of supporters.

The police don’t like protests, because they disturb the peace, but peaceful protests are often left alone. You can even look online to find out how to get a permit allowing you to protest, which protects you from the police- so long as you follow the rules.

  • Write petitions

Websites like www.change.org allow you to create a petition people can sign. Petitions are formal complaints or requests people can send to government bodies as well as officials.

Petitions should be limited to the power a government body or official has, so if you want a statue torn down because it is racist, you wouldn’t write the petition to the Chief Medical Examiner, you’d write it to the mayor, or to the state legislature.

You can also share petitions online on websites like Facebook to get more signatures and votes.

  • Go to the press

Call a local newspaper, news station, or even a big name news organization if you have concerns about your representatives.

Have you seen them hanging out with odd characters? Are there signs they might be corrupt, or not working to help the public?

News organizations like ProPublica specialize in investigating government figures, and large news companies like the Boston Globe and the New York Times have investigative journalists that investigate public figures.

If you work at a government job, and you find documents that showing something bad, even illegal is happening, ProPublica made a guide on how to leak documents to them. News organizations have mailboxes for their reporters, so sending documents directly to reporters works too.

This guide doesn’t cover everything, like the finer points of civil disobedience, or the morality of breaking into a government office to get documents, much of which is illegal.

This guide doesn’t give complete legal advice as to what may happen at protests or sit-ins or with leaked documents. You can search for experts on that and ask for their opinion.

This guide is a place to start for young people who want to be politically active, but remember; always ask older people who are active for advice on what to do and how to express yourself politically.

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